Meniscal Allograft Transplantation
What Is Meniscal Allograft Transplantation?
The middle of each knee contains two rings of cartilage known as the lateral and medial meniscus. These serve as shock absorbers between your upper leg and lower leg, and injury to either meniscus can be painful and even debilitating. When the damaged meniscus doesn’t heal with conservative treatment, meniscal allograft transplantation may be recommended.
Meniscus transplant surgery uses allograft — healthy, frozen tissue taken from a human donor — to replace the damaged meniscus.
Before Meniscal Allograft Transplantation
Typical candidates for meniscal allograft transplantation are younger than age 50 with a body mass index of less than 35. They should have attempted other, less-invasive treatment methods before considering transplantation.
Prior to surgery, the surgeon may consult with the patient’s primary care provider, especially when other underlying health issues are present. Patients will need to stop smoking and alert the surgeon if they drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day.
Small illnesses should be noted as well. Should the patient suffer even a cold in the days leading to surgery, the transplant may be postponed.
During Meniscal Allograft Transplantation
In most cases, minimally invasive surgical techniques are used to perform meniscal allograft transplantation. During the procedure, the surgeon uses an arthroscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end) to visualize the surgical area. Surgical tools are then inserted through tiny incisions to remove damaged meniscus and replace it with the allograft.
After Meniscal Allograft Transplantation
Patients typically remain in the hospital for one to two days following the transplant. Rehabilitation to help prevent knee stiffness and immobility usually begins during the inpatient hospital stay. During this rehabilitation, a physical therapist teaches the patient exercises that can be performed to speed the recovery process.
Medication may also be prescribed to limit pain for the days following transplantation.
For approximately six weeks following meniscal allograft transplantation, a knee brace and crutches are necessary. Most patients can return to school or non-physical work within a few weeks, but it can take months to return to jobs that require constant movement. Patients will continue with outpatient physical therapy for as long as six months, and it can take a year to regain full function of the knee.
Once recovered, most patients enjoy life with significantly less pain and increased range of motion.