What is it?
The meniscus provides important cushioning and protection for the knee joint. Unfortunately, when the meniscus is torn it is occasionally necessary to remove the damaged fragment. This will relieve symptoms of pain and catching, but will lead to less protection for the surfaces of the knee joint. Over time, if enough meniscus has been damaged or removed, the cartilage lining of the joint will start to wear away, leading to arthritis. Current techniques allow the damaged meniscus to be replaced with a transplanted meniscus in an attempt to prevent further degeneration of the joint . This is called a meniscal allograft. An allograft is a graft (transplant) from a cadaver donor. The size and shape needed is accurately determined from x-rays and an appropriate donor meniscus is identified from a large tissue bank of specially preserved menisci. Preservation is accomplished through a process called cryopreservation, which freezes the tissue so as to preserve the original cells and structure.
Who is eligible?
Any patient who has had a significant portion of their meniscus damaged or removed and is starting to develop deterioration of the joint.
How does it work?
Meniscus transplantation is performed as an outpatient procedure using arthroscopic techniques. Remnants of the old meniscus are removed, and the new graft is fixed into place using a combination of sutures and bone anchors. Following surgery, weight bearing is protected for 6 weeks. Range of motion and exercises are started immediately.
Dr. Halbrect has pioneered a new technique for meniscus trasplantation called the “Trough Technique” that has made this procedure more reproducible and easier to perform.
What are the results
Meniscus transplantation has been performed for over 10 years with very promising results. Over 90% of patients have relief of pain and excellent healing of the graft. Because of the cryopreservation process and certain characteristics of cartilage tissue, rejection does not occur. So, far, data suggests that the transplants should prevent the development of arthritis.