Lateral knee meniscus tear



by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

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There is a significant difference between the meniscus on the inner part of the knee (the medial meniscus) and the one on the outer part (the lateral meniscus):

• The medial meniscus is tightly bound to the capsular wall of the joint around its outer edge - there is no sliding movement forwards backwards, clockwise or counter-clockwise.

• The lateral meniscus is more rounded, and there is a section where the meniscus is not attached to the capsular wall of the joint. It has much more mobility.

• The medial meniscus, therefore, is more commonly torn than the lateral meniscus.


To tear a meniscus, there is usually a twisting force with significant torque.

Degenerative tears occur in association with arthritic disorders.

Patients with meniscal tears often describe a popping or catching in their knee. Some actually can feel something out of place. In some situations the knee will lock, preventing the patient from fully extending or straightening the knee. The pain or discomfort is usually along the joint line.

Lateral meniscus tears will cause symptoms on the outside part of the knee.



Meniscal tears do not show up on plain x-rays. MRI scanning is the diagnostic procedure of choice.

Only very small tears on the periphery of the meniscus will heal on their own. Those tears associated with an unstable knee, such as when a ligament injury occurs, have a poorer prognosis due to risk of re-injury.

A meniscus tear may need to be treated arthroscopically. This usually means either partial excision or repair of the tear.





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