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Meniscus Transplant

Risks of meniscus transplant surgery

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Updated July 16, 2014

As described previously, patients must fit specific criteria in order to be considered a good candidate for meniscus transplant surgery.

You are not a good candidate for a meniscus transplant if:

  • You still have a significant portion of the meniscus remaining (this procedure is only for patients who had the bulk of the meniscus removed)

  • You have degenerative changes within the joint (early arthritis)

  • You have instability or malalignment of the knee joint

  • You are unwilling to perform the lengthy rehabilitation from meniscus transplant surgery

  • You have unrealistic expectations
Allow me to further explain this last point. Some patients are looking for solutions that surgeons cannot necessarily offer. The goal of a meniscus transplant surgery is to reduce pain associated with normal activities. The goal is not to give the patient a "normal" knee, but rather to make it better. It is possible that patients may not be able to resume competitive athletics despite a successful meniscus transplant. Patients who expect more than reduction of pain may want to consider other options as they may find disappointment with their results.

What is the rehabilitation from meniscus transplant surgery?
This varies depending on the exact procedure your doctor will perform. Most surgeons have patients protect the knee with crutches for four to six weeks. Patients will not be able to squat, run, or perform athletic activities for at least several months. Most patients who have a successful outcome return to their usual activities by about six months from surgery.

What are the risks of meniscus transplant surgery?
The risks of every surgery must be carefully considered, but there are some unique risks to meniscal transplant that patients should be aware of.

  • Long-term results are lacking
    Long-term results simply are not available because meniscus transplantation is a relatively new procedure. There are some mid-term (3-6 year) studies which show encouraging results, but no one knows for sure how well these knee will be working in 10 or 20 years.

  • More surgery may be coming
    Studies have shown a significant number of these patients do require further surgery, about 30%. If you are looking for one-stop shopping, a procedure that you can confidently call your last, a meniscus transplant is not for you.

  • The transplant can fail
    Not all transplants have healed into position, and some need to be removed because they end up causing more problems than they solved. Even if you undergo proper rehabilitation and therapy, there is a significant chance that your new meniscus will not heal into your knee.

  • Disease transmission
    There is a very small, but a very real risk of disease transmission when using another persons tissue in your body. These tissues are preserved and cleaned to destroy bacteria and viruses, but there are no guarantees. There is a theoretical risk of HIV, hepatitis, bacterial, or other infectious disease transmission with these grafts. Again, the risk is very small, but not zero.
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