Complications After Meniscus Surgery

The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage in the knee joint. This cartilage acts as a shock absorber for the knee joint during physical activity. MayoClinic.com states that any activity that causes a patient to forcefully twist or rotate the knee can lead to a torn meniscus. A torn meniscus can cause swelling, pain, clicking and popping in the affected knee joint. This injury is commonly treated conservatively, but surgery may be required. A patient undergoing a meniscal repair surgery should understand the possible surgical complications.

A man sits on the couch working on his laptop with a knee brace on post knee surgery. (Image: humonia/iStock/Getty Images)

Infection

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) states that infection is a risk of meniscal surgery. In the case of a meniscal transplant surgery, the risk of contracting HIV from a meniscal transplant is one in 1.6 million. Other possible sources of infection include the patient’s skin, surgical tool or other objects in the operating room. Thus, extreme care is taken in sterilizing the skin before surgery. Furthermore, surgeons sterilize all surgical tools and other instruments on or near the surgical site. Signs of infection that a patient should be aware of include excessive redness, warmth, swelling and drainage. An infection may spread to the rest of the body and cause fever, chills or night sweats. Thus, early treatment of infection with antibiotics is necessary to prevent further complications.

Excessive Bleeding

Excessive bleeding is a risk of meniscal surgery, states the AAOS. This occurs because blood vessels may be damaged during surgery that can lead to significant internal or external bleeding. Furthermore, patients that take blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin, clopidogrel or warfarin are at risk of excessive bleeding during or after surgery. Signs of excessive bleeding include swelling of the joint, excessive pain, redness or blood oozing from the surgical site. A patient should not hesitate to let his surgeon know of any bleeding that is occurring after surgery.

Nerve Injury

In rare cases, a nerve that surrounds the knee may be damaged during meniscal surgery. The major nerves that run into the lower leg pass in the back of the knee. Thus, patients receiving surgical repair may be at a slightly higher risk. Signs of nerve damage include excessive pain in the knee or in the lower limb, difficulty walking, difficulty using muscles in the foot or difficulty using muscles in the lower leg. Nerve damage may be repaired if treated early; thus, a patient should not hesitate to let her doctor know of any problems that she may be experiencing.

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