Meniscal Transplant Surgery
What is meniscus transplant surgery?
Meniscus transplant surgery is a type of surgery that replaces your missing or damaged
meniscus with a meniscus from a cadaver donor. The surgery usually takes place under
Your knee has 2 wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage, 1 on each side of your knee. They
lie on top of the shinbone (tibia). Each one of these pieces is called a meniscus.
These 2 rubbery menisci act as shock absorbers between your thighbone (femur) and
your shinbone (tibia). A different type of cartilage capping the tibia and femur also
helps your bones move smoothly. These 2 menisci help protect the ends of your femur
and tibia as they move together.
Sometimes, a twisting injury may severely damage your meniscus. If the damage is severe
enough, your surgeon may need to remove your meniscus. Without this meniscus cushion,
the ends of your tibia and femur may start to rub together abnormally. Over time,
this can cause persistent knee pain. Eventually, it may cause arthritis. Your cartilage
“cap” degrades and the bones beneath start to scrape together.
Meniscus transplant surgery provides another choice for you. Your surgeon makes a
small incision in your knee. He or she uses special instruments and cameras to access
the joint space between your femur and tibia. Next, your surgeon surgically sews the
donated meniscus into your joint space.
Why might I need meniscus transplant surgery?
Meniscus transplant surgery might make sense for you if your meniscus was removed
in a previous surgery. (This probably happened if the damage to your meniscus was
so bad that surgeons couldn’t repair it in that previous surgery.) Without a meniscus,
you might gradually develop knee pain and arthritis of your joint. Replacing your
meniscus may provide significant pain relief. It may also help prevent arthritis in
your joint. This can develop when your cartilage becomes frayed and rough. This surgery
is less invasive than knee replacement surgery.
Meniscus transplant surgery might not make sense for you, even if you’ve had your
meniscus removed. If you already have arthritis of your knee, the procedure might
not help because you may already have too much damage to your cartilage and bone.
Another procedure, like knee replacement, might be more effective.
You might be a good candidate for meniscus transplant surgery if the following apply
You’re younger than age 55.
You’re missing more than half your meniscus, or you have a large meniscus tear that
You have significant or persistent pain with activity, or you have an unstable knee.
You have only minimal arthritis, or none at all.
You have a knee with normal alignment and stable ligaments.
You are not obese.
What are the risks of meniscus transplant surgery?
Most people have meniscus transplant surgery without any problems. Rarely, complications
Stiffness of the joint after surgery (more common)
Incomplete healing. This might need another surgery.
Damage to nearby nerves
Complications from anesthesia
Getting an infection from the donated tissue (extremely rare)
Your own risks may vary according to your age, your other medical conditions, and
the specific anatomy of your knee. Talk with your surgeon about your concerns. Make
sure you include the risks that most apply to you.
How do I get ready for a meniscus transplant surgery?
Talk with your healthcare provider about how to prepare for your meniscus transplant
surgery. Ask whether you should stop taking any medicines ahead of time, like blood
thinners. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including
over-the-counter medicines like aspirin. You’ll need to avoid food and drink after
the midnight before your procedure.
Before your procedure, you may need other imaging tests, like X-rays and MRI.
You may need to rearrange your living arrangements as you recover because you’ll need
to use crutches for several weeks.
You may be able to go home on the day of your surgery. It’s also possible you’ll need
to stay in the hospital for a day or two. Talk with your healthcare provider ahead
of time so that you can make the necessary arrangements for your recovery period.
Before your surgery, a healthcare provider will carefully screen the donated meniscus
for any signs of infection.
What happens during meniscus transplant surgery?
Your healthcare provider can help explain the details of your particular surgery.
An orthopedic surgeon will do the surgery. The whole operation may take a couple of
hours. In general, you can expect the following:
A healthcare provider (anesthesiologist) will give you medicine so that you’ll sleep
through the operation and won’t feel any pain or discomfort during the surgery. (You
may receive spinal anesthesia and a medicine to help you relax.)
Your vital signs, like your heart rate and blood pressure, will be monitored during
the operation. You may have a breathing tube inserted down your throat during the
operation to help you breathe.
After cleaning the affected area, your surgeon will make a small incision through
the skin and muscle of your knee.
Your healthcare provider will insert a very small camera through this incision, using
this camera to guide the surgery.
Using very small instruments inserted through the incision, your surgeon will remove
any remaining meniscus.
Next, he or she will surgically sew the donated meniscus into the joint space. The
healthcare provider might use screws or other devices to hold the meniscus in place.
Your surgeon will make other repairs, if needed.
The surgeon will close the layers of skin and muscle around your knee.
What happens after meniscus transplant surgery?
Talk with your healthcare provider about what you can expect after your surgery. In
some cases, you may be able to go home a few hours after your surgery. (If so, make
sure you have someone who can drive you home.) In other cases, you may need to stay
overnight at the hospital for monitoring.
You may have some pain right after your surgery, but pain medicines may help to ease
the pain. The pain should quickly start to diminish, and you should have less pain
than before your surgery.
After your surgery, you will probably need to wear a knee brace for a few weeks. You
might also need to use crutches during this time. Your healthcare provider will give
you instructions about how you can move your knee while you recover. You might need
physical therapy for a few months to help you maintain your strength and range of
motion. It may be several months before you can return to all your previous activities.
You may have some fluid draining from your incision, which is normal. Let your healthcare
provider know right away if you see an increase in redness, swelling, or draining
from your incision, or if you have a high fever, chills, or severe pain.
Make sure to keep all your follow-up appointments, so your healthcare provider can
monitor your progress. Following all of your healthcare provider’s instructions may
increase your chances for a positive outcome.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
The name of the test or procedure
The reason you are having the test or procedure
What results to expect and what they mean
The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
What the possible side effects or complications are
When and where you are to have the test or procedure
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
When and how you will get the results
Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure