The menisci provides cushioning to the knee joint and helps distribute the weight within the knee. Menisci are also crucial to the stability of the knee. When patients injure the meniscus they become at risk for developing degenerative changes that could eventually lead to arthritis. This is especially the case if a patient has had a previous meniscus surgery where a part, or all, of the meniscus has been removed, or if the damage is so severe with the current injury that the meniscus simply cannot be saved. In these situations, with the meniscal cushion gone, the articular cartilage is left unprotected, which means that bone may eventually be exposed. This will ultimately lead to painful and chronic symptoms.
Patients in these circumstances may be candidates for meniscus transplantation surgery. During an arthroscopic procedure, a size-matched meniscus from a cadaver donor is transplanted into the patient’s knee. The goal of the surgery is to replace the meniscus cushion before the cartilage that lies underneath becomes more damaged. Your physician may use regulated meniscal tissue donor banks to provide meniscal allografts.
Meniscus transplant surgeries are not commonly performed. Meniscus transplant is recommended for patients who are younger, who have had most or all of their meniscus removed, and who are developing symptomatic cartilage damage.
Following a meniscus transplant, patients will be prescribed a strict physical therapy and rehabilitation protocol. Generally, patients are allowed full weight-bearing, with their knee locked in a brace for walking. The brace is unlocked or removed for non-weight bearing. Bracing may be required for 6 weeks. Physical therapy to regain range of motion and strength will begin immediately after surgery. Return to sport is determined on a case-by-base basis.