Posts

Meniscus Repair Rehabilitation: Why Are We Still Stuck in the 90’s?

Today’s article is from my co-owner of Champion PT and Performance and co-author of OnlineKneeSeminar.com, Lenny Macrina.  Lenny does a great job discussing some of the controversies surrounding postoperative progressions, specifically weight-bearing and range of motion, follow meniscus repair surgery.

 

Meniscus injuries within the knee are a common occurrence.  In fact, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that meniscus surgery is the most frequent surgical procedure performed by orthopedic surgeons in the United States, with more than 50% of the procedures performed in patients 45 years of age or older.

Despite this high occurrence, many inconsistencies continue to exist in the rehabilitation of a patient following meniscus repair surgery, particularly involving the rate of weightbearing and range of motion.

I’m still shocked by this and wanted to discuss the recent research that is lending to a more progressive approach to return people safely back to their prior level of function.

Rehabilitation Follow Meniscus Repair

meniscus repair surgery weightbearingRehabilitation after surgical debridement of the meniscus is pretty straightforward. We return the patient’s range of motion, strength and function per their symptoms and let pain and swelling guide the rehab process (a very general guide but one often employed by many rehabilitation specialists).

However, when the meniscus is actually repaired and not just debrided, there are other factors to consider.  When a meniscus is repaired, the tear is approximated using stitches to allow the tear to heal.  

Rehabilitation following a meniscus repair has to be more conservative, however, despite research saying otherwise, there are still many rehabilitation protocols floating around the orthopaedic and sports medicine world that recommend limiting weight-bearing and range of motion after a meniscal repair.  We continue to ignore the literature because of fear that the ‘stress’ on the meniscus with walking and range of motion may be too high.

Unfortunately, many of these commonly used protocols are from the 1990’s. (The current protocols we use can be found at RehabilitationProtocols.com)

So if we’re going to talk 90’s protocols, take a look at these studies from way back when from Shelbourne  and Barber  that showed excellent results in patients undergoing a combined ACL-meniscus repair procedure and utilizing no limitations in weightbearing or range of motion, similar to a protocol for an isolated ACL reconstruction.

Recent studies from VanderHave and Lind on isolated meniscus repairs have shown similar results using an “aggressive” program of immediate weightbearing compared to a more conservative approach.

I certainly wouldn’t consider these “aggressive” programs, they simply used immediate weightbearing and range of motion.

Again, these studies show meniscal repair outcomes are no different while using restricted weightbearing and range of motion versus an “aggressive” protocol of immediate weight-bearing and unlimited range of motion.

Early Weightbearing After Meniscus Repair

meniscus repair surgery range of motionBut what about the exact mechanisms that many are still fearful of allowing early in the process, like early walking and range of motion? Won’t that put the repair in a position to fail?

We typically immobilize people in full extension during weightbearing, locked in a brace for 4-6 weeks after meniscal repair surgery.

So, if immobilized in extension, why do we limit weightbearing?

During weightbearing, compressive forces are loaded across the menisci. These tensile forces create ‘hoop stresses’, which expand the menisci in extension. These hoop stresses are thought to be helping the healing process in many tears by approximating the tissue.

Furthermore, the compressive loads applied while weightbearing in full extension following a vertical, longitudinal repair or bucket-handle repair have been shown to reduce the meniscus and stabilize the tear, as noted by Rodeo  and more recently by McCulloch.

Early Range of Motion After Meniscus Repair

What about early range of motion?

There is very limited literature on the influences of range of motion on meniscal movement. Thompson showed that during flexion, the posterior excursion of the medial meniscus was 5.1 mm, while that of the lateral meniscus was 11.2 mm.

Looking at meniscal movement as the knee flexes in weightbearing and non-weightbearing you can see there’s less motion, although I really don’t think we know how much motion is detrimental. The motion has been shown to help improve blood flow to the area. This is huge and may aid in the healing process!meniscus biomechanics

What Do We Recommend?

Anecdotally, I can say we have handled meniscal repairs to allow weightbearing and range of motion to tolerance for many years.  Some of the top orthopedic surgeons in the world that I have worked with currently handle a meniscal repair the same as an ACL reconstruction with a meniscal repair .

For an isolated meniscal repair, I prefer the knee continue to be immobilized in full extension for 4-6 weeks but allowed full weightbearing immediately (if a longitudinal repair). For complex repairs, I would recommend limiting weightbearing to partial but understand that the hoop stresses could aid in healing and are arguably helpful and necessary.  For both cases, I would recommend passive range of motion to tolerance.

Trust me, I respect the healing meniscus and continually monitor patients as I progress their range of motion and weight-bearing activities. Things like new joint line pain along the site of the repair, new swelling or a change in pain patterns, and even clicking (although most people have this) are all signs that I may want to further assess and modify my progression.

Based off of this, I continue to stand by my rehab guidelines of full, pain free passive range of motion and immediate weightbearing after a vertical longitudinal meniscal repair. The literature is screaming this same thing at us but we continue to ignore their calls and revert to the 90’s!

What do the surgeons that you work with recommend?  Are any of them still recommending rehab guidelines based on outdated research?  Comment below and let me know, I want to hear what the rest of the country is seeing!

 

Learn How I Evaluate and Treat the Knee

If you want to learn even more about meniscus rehabilitation, we discuss all of this this and much more in our online knee course at OnlineKneeSeminar.com where we teach you exactly how we evaluate and treat the knee.  Click below to learn more.

Learn Exactly How I Evaluate and Treat the Knee

After many years in the making, I am super excited to announce that my online program teaching you exactly how I evaluate and treat the knee is now available!

Many of my readers have taken my online shoulder program and LOVED it. The testimonials speak wonders. I am humbled yet proud of how well received that program has been over the years. When I first started the program, I had no idea what to expect, but I think many people agreed with me at the time that online education was the future.

Not a month has gone by since I started ShoulderSeminar.com that people haven’t asked me “when is the knee version coming out?”

Well, today is the day!

 

Recent Advances in the Evidence-Based Evaluation and Treatment of the Knee

reinold macrina online knee seminar

I have teamed up with my co-owner and Director of PT at Champion, Lenny Macrina, to build an online program that teaches you exactly how we evaluate and treat the knee. Together, we’ve put together what we think is an amazing resource for rehabilitation specialists.

The program includes 7 modules of detailed information on anatomy, basic science, healing responses, evaluation, treatment progressions, nonoperative rehabilitation, surgical techniques, and postoperative rehabilitation.

You’ll learn exactly how we approach:

  • Clinical Evaluation of the Knee
  • Treatment Progressions for the Knee
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament
  • Patellofemoral
  • Meniscus
  • Articular Cartilage
  • Osteoarthritis

evaluation and treatment of the knee

Best of all, you can learn at your own pace in the comfort of your own home. No more nodding off in the back of a room and losing an entire weekend. I am a firm believer that you will learn more and be able to apply the information much better when learning in small chunks at your own pace. Finish the program in a few days or several weeks, it’s up to you!

Each module contains a video introducing the material, a detailed presentation on the topic, several journal articles that we hand selected to learn the material, and discussion questions. This is an in depth course that will take your understanding of the knee to the next level.

CEU applications have been submitted to the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy for approval with several states. The course is approved for 22.5 hours of CEU credit through the NATA for Athletic Trainers. We provide all the information needed if you need to apply to another board for approval.

 

reinold macrina eval treat knee

 

Start Mastering the Knee Today!

The course is value at $349.99.  That’s less than a typical CEU course and I promise you’ll get way more out of this one!

Visit OnlineKneeSeminar.com or click below to learn more and start the program today!

large-learn-more