While a torn meniscus can often be diagnosed with only a physical examination, an MRI can confirm a meniscus tear and reveal the specific location of the tear, advises MedicineNet. Meniscus tears cause pain and swelling on one side of the knee, states UCLA Health.
MRI images also show other soft tissue in the knee including cartilage and ligaments. This procedure and X-rays of the knee allow the doctor to diagnose other injuries or fractures present, states UCLA Health.
The meniscus is a piece of cartilage on the tibia that provides a surface over which the femur can glide, according to UCLA Heath. Meniscus injuries often occur during athletic activities, such as basketball and tennis, in which sudden stops or twisting movements of the knee are common, according to MedicineNet. Degenerative tears from walking or climbing stairs are also common in elderly patients.
The meniscus does not receive a good blood supply, and tears do not readily heal on their own. Rest, ice, compression and elevation over a period of four to six weeks may improve symptoms, according to UCLA Health. If the tear is severe or pain persists, surgery may be necessary.
Depending on the location and severity of the meniscus tear, the doctor may repair the tear or remove part or all of the meniscus, states Cigna. Removing the entire meniscus increases the risk for osteoarthritis and is avoided if possible.