Accessibility Tools

The meniscus is a thick, wedge-shaped piece of rubbery cartilage that provides cushioning and shock absorption for the bones of your knee joint. Each knee has two menisci (the plural for meniscus). Located where the ends of the thigh bone (or femur) and the shin bone meet, the meniscus tissue is tough, and it can take a lot of wear and tear. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be damaged. When that happens, one or both menisci may need to be significantly trimmed down or completely removed, and that means the ends of those two main bones are left to rub against each other, creating damaging friction that leads to painful osteoarthritis and, eventually, loss of mobility.

When the meniscus is badly damaged, a knee joint replacement can be a good option for some patients, especially those who are older or who lead relatively inactive lifestyles. But for younger and more active patients, a meniscus transplant could be a much better option.

What happens in a meniscus transplant procedure?

The goal of a meniscus transplant surgery is to replace your meniscus with a donor meniscus to help restore normal function and relieve knee pain and stiffness. Prior to the surgery, you’ll be matched with a donor and the graft will be carefully sized to avoid problems and improve the results of your surgery.

The surgery typically is performed arthroscopically, using small incisions and a special instrument called an arthroscope. A tiny camera on the scope captures video images inside the knee joint and sends them to a monitor. Dr. Van Thiel performs the surgery using the video images for guidance, avoiding the need for larger incisions that increase the risk of complications and result in longer recovery times. During the surgery, one incision is made for the arthroscope and smaller, puncture-like incisions are made for the surgical instruments that are used to remove the damaged meniscus and to place the graft. Once the graft is properly positioned, it’s anchored into the shin bone and additional sutures are used to hold it in place.

What is recovery like?

Following surgery, you’ll need to wear a knee brace and use crutches for a few weeks while the graft begins to “knit” or join with the surrounding tissues. Shortly after your surgery, you’ll begin a course of physical therapy to help restore strength and range of motion in your knee. Generally, you can plan on returning to work about two to four weeks after your surgery, but if your job is physically demanding, it could be longer. During recovery, you’ll work closely with your physical therapist and Dr. Van Thiel to help you return to your regular activities, including sports. In most cases, complete recovery takes about six months to a year.

Am I a good candidate for a meniscus transplant?

Meniscus transplant surgery can be a good option for patients who don’t have significant arthritis in their knee joint and who are 55 years of age or younger. Older patients may be better suited for total knee replacement surgery. The surgery usually is considered for active patients who are missing at least half of their meniscus or who have a severe meniscal tear that can’t be repaired. If you’re significantly overweight or you have ligament damage in your knee, you may not be an ideal candidate for this surgery. Prior to any surgery, Dr. Van Thiel performs a comprehensive exam and evaluation to ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment based on your needs, your health history, your activity level and other factors.

State-of-the-Art Solutions for Knee Pain from a Leading Meniscus Transplant Surgeon

Knee pain is one of the most common orthopedic complaints among men and women, becoming even more common with age. Without prompt and appropriate medical care, joint damage can progress until some symptoms become irreversible. Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel is a leading orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in the greater Chicago area, providing innovative, patient-centered care for patients. If you have knee pain, stiffness, grinding sensations or other unusual symptoms in your knee, don’t delay treatment.

Call OrthoIllinois at and schedule a consultation with Dr. Van Thiel today.

Locations & Directions