Meniscus Treatment Without Surgery?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

meniscus-treatment-without-surgery

For many patients, meniscus surgery is the ninth inning or the fourth quarter. You’ve tried everything else—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroid injections, and other traditional treatments—but nothing has eased your pain or fixed your meniscus. The meniscus-treatment bases are loaded, there are two strikes, and now it’s time for the heavy hitter, Meniscus Surgery, to come in and fix everything—to repair your meniscus and eliminate your pain once and for all. The truth is, more often than not, Meniscus Surgery is going to strike out! Meniscus repair without surgery is actually possible, but you may be playing on the wrong ball field altogether.

The Playbook of Meniscus Function

Our bodies function via a set of biological rules, and when something truly goes wrong, it’s important to address it. To understand meniscus tears, we must first review the playbook of meniscus function—what it is, how it works, what causes a tear in the first place, and, additionally, how a surgical repair works.

The meniscus is a natural shock absorber in the knee that supports and protects the cartilage and helps guide the knee bones. Tears can happen in sports or other active injuries or as a result of normal wear and tear as we age.

When the meniscus gets injured, many patients believe that the surgery they’re getting is a meniscus repair. However, what’s really being done more than 90% of the time is that the torn meniscus piece is excised, or removed. So to call it a “repair” is misleading. If a torn meniscus is less efficient in helping to protect cartilage, imagine what removing an entire piece of the meniscus might do! Many prior studies have shown that meniscus surgery increases the loads on the cartilage, leading to more wear and tear and even arthritis, so it’s easy to see how chronic pain could be an outcome of this surgery.

Meniscus Tears in Middle Age Are as Common as “Outs” in Baseball

One thing you’re guaranteed to see at a baseball game is multiple “outs”—strikeouts, foul outs, fly-ball outs, tag outs, and so on. One thing you’re very likely to see in middle age is meniscus tears. The big misconception is that meniscus tears seen on MRI after a middle-aged patient reports knee pain are significant. Just as many of your middle-aged friends who don’t have any knee pain or problems have meniscus tears. They’re as common as wrinkles and gray hair.

Why Meniscus Surgery Is the Wrong Ball Field

Previously, we shared results showing that patients’ satisfaction with their meniscus surgery is much lower than surgeons estimate, with over three in five patients being dissatisfied or not fully satisfied with their surgery. Sure, you could potentially get lucky here and be one of the less than two in five that are completely satisfied, but it’s a gamble.

In addition, recentely we highlighted a bevy of studies supporting our advice to just say NO! to meniscus surgery. These studies provided the following conclusions:

This is just a small handful of studies we’ve reported here over the years. The short video below will explain why meniscus surgery is the wrong ball field.

Why Meniscus Treatment Without Surgery Is the Right Ball Field

There are interventional orthopedic options, such as stem cell therapy for knee meniscus tears, available that make meniscus treatment without surgery a feasible option. Our Regenexx same day stem cell procedure precisely injects the patient’s own stem cells into the meniscus and ligaments in order to reduce pain and increase function, two things surgery is proving to be ineffective at time and time again.

Our outcome data on our stem cell procedure for meniscus tears looks promising. We continue to follow our patients’ progress and based on those outcomes are able to keep track of our own successes and failures via a non-profit, patient registry. We have the world’s oldest and largest orthopedic stem cell treatment registry data, which is now run by the Interventional Orthopedics Foundation.

The upshot? Don’t let yourself get talked into a surgery that removes important parts and pieces of important structures like the meniscus. Opt instead for a different ball field, meniscus treatment without surgery!

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10 thoughts on “Meniscus Treatment Without Surgery?

  1. chris

    At 35 seconds into the video the speaker says much of the meniscus lacks sufficient blood flow for it to heal. If all of these tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and meniscus are so critical to proper function/movement, why do they not have a good blood supply to them?

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Chris,
      Most do, as we all experience insignificant tears that heal. Form follows funtion, and the function of the meniscus is to act as a shock absorber, diperse the weight of your body over it’s surface, help to stabilize the knee and protect the cartilage. The outer edges of the meniscus have good blood supply, but the surface which is absorbing shock and dispersing load does not as more vascularization would interfere with function. Thankfully, we can make up for that by getting the needed patelets and or stem cells to the area with precise guided injections.

  2. Dion

    I was fortunate to hear about meniscus treatment without surgery before following the option suggested by an orthopedic surgeon who suggested a meniscus surgery for my torn meniscus. Whew…so lucky that my husband heard about stem cell procedures prior to taking this other suggested approach! I am less than a month out from the meniscus stem cell procedure at the Centeno Schultz Clinic and I am already experiencing improvements from this procedure. Many thanks!

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Dion,
      Wonderful news! Thanks for sharing it!

  3. April

    Do you have any clinical trials for stem cell treatments for meniscus tears? Or any success with insurance companies approving and covering this treatment? The problem is, the vast majority of people can’t afford the expense of this treatment.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      April,
      The Regenexx Clinical studies that are currently enrolling are the ACL stem cell and Rotator Cuff stem cell study. Please see: http://www.regenexx.com/stem-cell-research/#studies We treat an enormous number of Meniscus tears; some with Regenexx SCP, which is a much more powerful type of PRP, and some with Regenexx SD, our same dy stem cell procedure. Which one depends on many factors. So stem cells might not be needed in your case and that affects cost significantly. If you’d like to see if you’d be a Candidate, please submit the Candidate form. http://www.regenexx.com/meniscus-tears/ While not currently covered by insurance some of our Providers do have Financing available.

  4. Perry L.

    Tore my right medial meniscus while running and training aggressively like a 30 y/o, but I’m 74. Experienced annoying “catching” and nagging pain that interfered with my activities for about two months before I decided to proceed with the menisectomy procedure. Two and three months post operatively I climbed, with knee comfort, two 13,000 peaks in the Rocky Mountains. Now, 7 months later, I’m completely symptom free and doing even better than during the mountain hiking months ago. What’s the data on the success of stem cell or PRP therapy vs meniscal surgery? Are there any studies that directly compare the two to each other with a control of physical therapy only?

    1. Chris Centeno Post author

      Perry, great to hear that this invasive procedure worked for you, as the research in general shows it’s no better than a placebo procedure. The concern is that removing this tissue can cause long-term problems in advancing arthritis. However, if you’re still going strong at 74, that’s great! Stem cell injections into meniscus and surgery have yet to be compared, but given surgery couldn’t beat placebo, that wouldn’t be a good comparison. It would be better to perform an RCT for meniscus stem cell injections versus placebo. A small one has already been performed and that showed good results.

  5. Don Moze

    An MRI revealed a torn meniscus in the non blood supply (white zone) area of my left knee. I believe I injured it playing basketball. At age 58, I have opted not to have arthroscopic surgery as recommended by the orthopedic. Other than occasional clicking and a little swelling, I have no other symptoms (ie, no pain). My knee did swell up on me when I played basketball again. So basketball is on the shelf for now. I can still spin cycle and I will add swimming to my workouts in lieu of basketball. The Cooper Fit knee sleeve has been very helpful. Additionally, I’m rehabbing my injured knee by doing leg lifts starting with light weights and machine assisted squats with light weights. Am I a good candidate for the stem cell procedure
    you mentioned? Any other advice?

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Don
      What you describe is unlikely to heal on its own, and generally within treatment range, however, all patients go through the Candidacy process, as every case is different. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/meniscus-treatment-without-surgery/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/meniscus-stem-cell-treatment/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/should-i-get-meniscus-surgery/ If you’d like to see if you’d be a Candidate, please submit the Candidate form, or call 855 622 7838

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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