Meniscus Surgery Risks

For most patients who undergo meniscus surgery, their symptoms are improved and they have no complications. However, there are risks involved with any surgical procedure, some of which are serious. It is important to discuss these with your surgeon so that you can decide together if meniscus surgery is right for you.

It is important to understand that any injury to the knee, including the menisci, increases the risk of developing arthritis in the future. Surgery to repair or remove the meniscus is not able to prevent this but may help to improve your symptoms, sometimes for many years.

Some of the more common risks (affecting 2-5% of patients) include:

  • Pain:
    You will have some pain after your procedure and you will be prescribed pain relief to help manage this
  • Numbness:
    The skin around the knee or shin may be temporarily or more permanently numb due to damage of small nerves. Most patients do not find this bothersome in the long term
  • Swelling/Haemarthrosis:
    This is a collection of fluid or blood in the knee joint. In most cases, the body will absorb the fluid itself. If the swelling becomes too large, the surgeon may feel an operation is necessary to drain the fluid

Rare risks (affecting less than 1%of patients) include:

  • Infection:
    The wound sites may become red, painful and hot. There may also be discharge from the wounds. These are signs of infection and can usually be treated by antibiotics. The infection may spread to the knee joint itself (requiring a washout). Infection may also spread to the blood (sepsis) requiring intravenous antibiotics
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or Pulmonary Embolism (PE):
    A DVT is a blood clot, usually in the calf/leg. They can cause swelling and pain in the leg. Very rarely they might travel to the lungs (a PE) and cause a serious medical emergency
  • Damage to the Structures Within the Knee:
    This is rare, but sometimes other structures around the knee might be damaged during an procedure. This may need further treatment including another operation.
  • Abnormal Wound Healing:
    The scars may become thick, red and painful (keloid scar). This is more common in in patients of certain ethnicities. There may also be delayed healing or wound oozing
  • Compartment Syndrome:
    This is a build up of pressure within the lower leg and can cause nerve damage, blood vessel damage and muscle damage. If this occurs, an emergency operation will have to be performed to prevent death of tissue of the lower leg/ foot