Patients younger than age 50 who had transplant surgery to replace a torn or severely damaged meniscus experienced less pain and improved knee function following the surgery, a new study suggests.

However, many of these patients require additional surgery within 10 years, according to a news release from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

The study appears in the August 5 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

The release explains that the meniscus is a wedge-shaped piece of fibrocartilage in the knee that acts as a shock absorber between the thighbone and shinbone. A meniscus can be torn during sports or wear away over time as the body ages.

For younger patients with knee pain after loss of the meniscus, a meniscus transplant is performed to maintain a cushion between the two bones, stabilize the joint, prevent persistent knee pain, and to allow for greater mobility. An orthopaedic surgeon executes the knee surgery by using an arthroscope to accurately place and stitch new, transplanted meniscal tissue, the release continues.

In their study, researchers followed 38 meniscal transplant patients under age 50, who did not have arthritis, for an average of 11 years following surgery. Patient outcomes were evaluated based on clinical, subjective, and radiographic measures, per the release.

According to the study results, 63% of meniscal transplants were viable at 10 years. Only 11% of patients with successful transplants had pain when engaging in daily activities. Also, nearly three-fourths of patients (72%) were able to take part in low-impact sports such as bicycling and swimming.

In patients who required additional surgery, the meniscal transplants lasted between 7 and 8 years after surgery, depending on which side of the knee the meniscus transplant was located, the release continues.

“This data provides surgeons with reasonable percentages that encourage delaying additional major knee surgeries related to a damaged meniscus,” says Frank R. Noyes, MD, lead study author and founder of the Noyes Knee Institute at the Cincinnati Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center, in the release.

“However, the longer-term function of meniscus transplants remains questionable because the survivorship rate of the transplants decreases to between 40 and 15 percent at 15 years,” Noyes states.

“Patients should be advised that this procedure is not curative in the long-term, and additional surgery will most likely be necessary,” he continues in the release.

[Source(s): American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Science Daily]