Did you know that 10-20% of orthopedic surgeries involve a meniscus tear? It’s the most common knee injury for athletes and non-athletes alike. It’s also one of the most complicated injuries to treat.
The meniscus’ location makes it difficult to access, and unlikely to heal by itself. Even the surgical option isn’t perfect, it often necessitates the trimming or removal of part of the meniscus which can lower the longevity of the knee.
Science has been uncovering more ways to concentrate the body’s healing powers to repair injuries. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is one of these forms of regenerative medicine. Using PRP for meniscus injuries is one way to avoid surgery or accelerate healing after surgical meniscus repair.
In this article, we’ll discuss complicating factors for treating meniscus tears, as well as the benefits of PRP injections for meniscus tears.
What Is a Meniscus Injury?
The knee is one of the strongest joints in the body, and it takes the most stress in daily life. However, it’s kept stable by only four ligaments. It’s not that flexible when it comes to rotation, and it’s easy to twist it too far.
Excessive force and rotation can tear ligaments like the ACL. It can also tear the meniscus, the cartilage cushion that absorbs shock between the femur and the tibia.
Meniscus tears are common among athletes who engage in twisting motions, or sports with a lot of direction changes. But, they can happen to anyone who unluckily twists their knee the wrong way.
When a meniscus tear occurs, you might feel and hear a pop followed by pain and swelling. In the days following injury, you’ll notice instability and stiffness in the joint.
Unfortunately, the meniscus is often regarded as non-healing. This is because only 30% of the meniscus, the red zone, has a blood supply. The remaining 70%, the white zone, lacks blood flow.
Some injuries to the red zone will heal on their own over time, but most won’t heal without treatment.
Left untreated, a meniscus tear can result in arthritis or other complications. The cartilage could even slip into the knee causing more problems. For longevity of the knee joint, it’s best to treat the tear as soon as possible.
How to Treat Meniscus Tears
When facing a meniscus injury, it’s important to find a sports medicine clinic immediately to determine the best treatment plan.
Most meniscus tears have to be treated with surgery. Surgery will either involve meniscus sutures or removal of part of the meniscus.
Tears in the red zone can be stitched together and will heal naturally thanks to the consistent blood supply. However, meniscus healing takes a long time regardless.
For example, after an ACL repair, you can begin physical therapy and even some weight-bearing activities almost immediately. After a meniscus repair, most doctors require waiting at least six weeks before any weight-bearing.
Tears in the white zone require that part of the meniscus be either removed or trimmed. Only 10% of white zone meniscus tears can be repaired with sutures.
Removing part of the meniscus means removing part of the cushion in the knee and can lead to complications down the line.
What Is PRP Therapy?
PRP therapy is a non-surgical option for injury treatment. The process takes place at a sports injury clinic and involves drawing some blood and injecting it back into the injury to promote healing.
This is known as “autologous treatment,” meaning that the healing material is provided by the patient themselves. Other procedures such as transplants involve material from another person. One of the benefits of autologous treatments is that there’s no chance for the material to be rejected.
First, your doctor will draw your blood and place it in a centrifuge. The centrifuge separates the red blood cells from the plasma and platelets.
Plasma is the liquid component of blood, containing water and proteins. Platelets are special blood cells that form clots and help with the growth process.
The centrifuge concentrates the platelets two to eight times more than normal. This concentrated platelet fluid is injected into the injury site. It fills the tear with growth factors that promote healing, allowing the meniscus to stitch itself back together.
The process is outpatient although you might be asked to rest the knee for a bit afterward. About two to six weeks after the procedure, you’ll begin to experience some of the benefits of PRP injections.
PRP therapy is extremely effective in sports medicine and can treat everything from tendonitis to arthritis.
PRP for Meniscus Injuries
Meniscus tear treatment with PRP is very effective. Because the deep meniscus has no blood flow, injections of PRP allow the platelets access to the injury.
If the injections are fully effective, they can even replace surgery. Risks of surgery can include osteoarthritis and knee degeneration down the line. All of these risks can be avoided by using PRP injections for meniscus tears.
When repairing a meniscus, the surgeon has to decide whether to keep or remove pieces of the tissue. Removing them can provide quicker and more effective healing, but more long-term consequences. Keeping them in can complicate the healing process after surgery.
Using PRP therapy for meniscus tears means that surgeons can keep the meniscus intact more often than not. PRP allows the meniscus to repair itself quickly and completely after surgery.
Studies show that the growth factors in PRP provide a good outcome after surgery, with better recovery rates and more meniscus retained.
Furthermore, the meniscus rarely tears alone. It often tears with the ACL or another ligament at the same time. PRP can accelerate the healing of ligaments and tendons in the area as well.
Try PRP Therapy Today
If you’ve torn your meniscus and you’re in Portland, go to Sports Health Northwest to experience the best joint preservation clinic in the area.
PRP for meniscus tears is just one of the treatments that we offer. If PRP is not right for your case, there are a variety of other treatments we offer that will provide you with relief and healing.
With us, you’re guaranteed to find the sports medicine doctor that will formulate the best treatment plan for your specific injury.