Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Knee Cartilage or Meniscus?

Is knee cartilage the same as the meniscus?

This is a common area of confusion when discussion knee problems with a doctor. The confusion is due to doctors using different terms to everyday people.

From a doctors point of view, you have both in your knee. Hopefully anyway.

What is a meniscus?

You have two menisci in each knee. One on the inside of the knee (medial meniscus) and one on the outside (lateral meniscus). Each is a roughly 'C' shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber. It has a wedge shape when profiled that helps to contribute to joint stability. The meniscus can be torn by twisting activities and is a common sports injury. This is commonly called a 'torn cartilage'.

What does a doctor mean by cartilage?
To avoid confusion (among themselves only it appears) doctors always refer to 'meniscus' when appropriate, saving the word 'cartilage' for use when discussing Articular Cartilage.
Articular cartilage is the smooth lining of our joints that allows us to move freely without pain, over many years and while weight bearing. As you can imagine, to do this task it is very hard and does not tear like a meniscus. It does however wear away over time or as a result of injury. This wearing the articular cartilage is what we call osteoarthritis.

Are they linked?
Since the meniscus protects the joint by absorbing shock, any injury to it that results in its full or partial removal during surgery increases the risk of osteoarthritis.
These two structurally different types of cartilage work as a team to allow movement and protect the bones of the leg. Losing one or both can have serious consequences.

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