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Meniscal Surgery

A meniscus tear is a type of damage to the cartilage in the knee. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tough cartilage that is found between the bones in the knee joint. It acts as a shock absorber and protects the thigh and shin bones when you move.

Also known as: meniscus tear surgery or knee cartilage surgery

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Everything you need to know

A meniscus tear is a type of damage to the cartilage in the knee. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tough cartilage that is found between the bones in the knee joint. It acts as a shock absorber and protects the thigh and shin bones when you move. It can become damaged if you suddenly twist your knee when your foot is firmly planted on the ground. Meniscus injuries are common in people that play sport as well as older people. This is because the menisci get weaker over time and so can tear as part of the ageing process.

Symptoms of a torn meniscus include:
• Pain
• Stiffness or swelling round your knee. This could start hours or days after your injury
• Your knee keeps giving way or feels like it’s going to
• A crunching or clicking sensation in your knee when you move
• Difficulty bending, straightening or moving your knee

A meniscus tear can get better on its own with at-home treatments such as rest, icing the knee, elevating your leg and wearing a knee support. However, it can take a while to heal. Physiotherapy may be recommended if you are struggling with pain and to help improve strength and range of movement in your knee. If your meniscus if badly torn, you may need knee arthroscopy surgery to repair or remove the damaged tissue.

Before Surgery


Whether you have knee surgery will depend on the extent of damage to your meniscus, if you have other injuries in your knee, and if your quality of life is being affected.

If your knee feels stable and you don’t notice an impact on your day-to-day life, you may decide that at-home treatments, pain relief or physiotherapy are enough.

However, if your knee feels unstable, is painful, and you are not able to take part in activities you enjoy, meniscus surgery could be a good option for you.

If you think you have injured your meniscus and are worried, book an appointment with one of our specialist knee surgeons. They will assess your knee and if needed refer you for scans (such as X-rays and MRI) to see the extent of injury. Your doctor will thoroughly discuss your options with you. If surgery is recommended, they will explain the risks and benefits so you can make an informed decision.


If you decide to have surgery, you may need to wait for any swelling to go down and also see a physiotherapist for ‘prehab.’ This will aim to increase the range of motion in your knee and strengthen the surrounding muscles as this will lead to better outcomes after surgery.

In the run up to surgery, you should regularly do your prehab exercises. If you would like physiotherapy help, we have an excellent therapies department at the hospital who can support you before and after surgery.


Before your surgery, you will need to come into hospital for a pre-assessment, where we can check your fitness for surgery. This is a standard check and may include a physical exam, blood tests, heart and lung function tests as well as an MRSA test. We will also give you specific antibacterial soap and lotions to use in the run up to the procedure, which will help reduce your risk of contracting MRSA.

If you take any blood thinners—for example, warfarin or aspirin, tell your doctor straight away, as you may need to stop taking these or modify your intake from a week before surgery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions if this is the case. You should also tell your doctor if you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.

Surgery day

A torn meniscus is usually treated using knee arthroscopy. This is a common minimally invasive procedure, and most people can be treated and go home the same day.

You should stop eating six hours before surgery. Two hours before, you should stop drinking (including water), chewing gum and sucking boiled sweets. Brush your teeth with toothpaste only on the morning of surgery.

Wear loose, comfortable clothes and bring a small bag with things you might need during your stay. Items to remember include a toothbrush and toothpaste, your phone and a charger, and any prescription medications. Your doctor will let you know if you can take any medications with a sip of water before surgery or if you should wait until after.

Once you have arrived and are settled in your room, a nurse will monitor your vital signs (such as body temperature and blood pressure) and run through your medical history, medications and emergency contacts.

Your doctor will then once again run you through the procedure and ask you to sign a consent form for surgery.

During Surgery

Before the surgery starts, you will be anaesthetised. There are different options, including general anaesthesia where you are unconscious and need a breathing tube to help you breathe, and spinal where anaesthetic is injected into your spine to numb the lower half of your body. With spinal, you can also be given sedation to help you relax.

An arthroscopy involves making a small incision in your knee and inserting a tiny tube with a camera and light through this. The camera sends images to a monitor allowing your surgeon to examine the interior of the knee. Tiny tools are inserted through another small incision.

Depending on the extent of your injury, your surgeon will choose to perform one of these surgical techniques:

Meniscus repair: The surgeon sews the cartilage back together so the meniscus can heal on their own. However, because of tear type and blood supply, fewer than 10% of tears can be repaired in this way.

Partial meniscectomy: The surgeon trims and removes the damaged cartilage and leaves healthy meniscus tissue in place.

Your surgeon will finish by closing your incisions with stitches.

Typically, a knee arthroscopy takes one hour.

After Surgery

Once we’re happy you’re doing well, we will take you to your private room where you can start your recovery.

Our nursing team will make regular checks to make sure your recovery is going to plan, and they will also encourage you to get up and walk as soon as possible. They will provide you with a knee brace or crutches to help you get around. Your surgeon will also visit you and let you know how surgery went. Then, once you’ve had some food and drink, you can go home.

You will need someone to collect you and stay with you overnight as anaesthetic and sedation can make you feel very tired for around 24 hours. During this time you should not drink alcohol, cook or make important decisions.

If possible, arrange for someone to help you for a couple of weeks post-surgery as well, as your knee will be bruised, swollen and quite painful for 1-2 weeks after surgery. During this time, take your prescribed painkillers, apply a cold wrap to your knee, and keep your leg elevated as much as possible. When moving around use crutches or a knee brace as you should not put too much weight on your knee at this point.

It will take approximately two weeks for your wound to heal, and you should see your doctor at this point for a post-surgery check, where any non-dissolvable stitches will be removed. Dissolvable stitches should disappear on their own after around three weeks.

After 2-3 weeks, you should be able to start walking without crutches/the brace and put more weight on your knee. You should be able to return to office work at this point as well.

From 2 weeks onwards, you should do your physiotherapy exercises regularly as these will help improve your balance, flexibility in your knee, and increase the strength in the surrounding muscles. You should be able to start driving again after 3-4 weeks or once putting weight on your knee feels comfortable.

In the weeks following an operation, patients have a slightly higher risk of a blood clot, so will need to avoid flying. You should wait six weeks before taking a short haul flight (under six hours) and 12 weeks before taking a long-haul flight.

The recovery time for meniscus surgery depends on the type of surgery you had. It takes longer for a meniscus repair than a meniscectomy. Full recovery from meniscus surgery can take anywhere from six weeks to three months.

A physiotherapist can help guide you through the recovery process, and our hospital has a talented team who can support you throughout your recovery.

Hospital Fee Guaranteed


The price shown includes all costs associated with your treatment, from admission to discharge.

Doesn’t include surgeon or anaesthetist fee

Our hospital fee is guaranteed at the price quoted and valid for one month from the date issued, subject to pre-assessment.

How to pay for your treatment

If you’re… paying for yourself

Did you know you don’t need private medical insurance to come to St John & St Elizabeth Hospital? As a self-pay patient, you can access safe, outstanding quality health care at times to suit you.

For scans and tests, as well as to see most consultants, you’ll still need to be referred by a medical professional like your GP, but as a self-pay patient, the process is more straightforward. You won’t need authorisation from an insurance provider, and you’ll have greater choice of consultant and appointment times.

If you’re… insured

St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is approved by all major medical insurance companies. If you have a personal private health insurance policy, or your company provide it for you, you can use it to pay for your care from your initial consultation through to treatment, surgery and aftercare such as physiotherapy. Not all private health insurance plans cover the same things. It’s very important to check exactly what you are covered for with your insurance provider.



You will have an initial consultation with a specialist knee surgeon.


Treatment plan

During this appointment, you will go through your medical history, have a knee exam and if needed, be referred for an up-to-date scan (such as X-rays or MRI) of your knee. If surgery is recommended, your doctor will explain the risk and benefits of surgery and what to expect from recovery. Together, you will decide whether meniscus surgery is the best option for you.



Your knee needs to be in the best condition possible before surgery, as this will lead to better outcomes. Once your swelling has gone down, you should follow your physiotherapist’s exercise programme.



If you decide to go ahead with meniscus surgery, you will need to come in for a pre-assessment, which is a standard ‘fitness for surgery’ check.



You will be able to walk the same day with the help of a knee brace or crutches. You should be able to home the same day.



You will need to keep your wound clean and dry, take pain relief and have physiotherapy consistently. You will not be able to fly short haul for six weeks or long-haul for 12 weeks. We have an excellent therapies team at our hospital that can support you throughout your recovery.



You will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor at two weeks, where any stitches will be removed. You may need further check-ups at 6 weeks and 12 weeks.


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