Degenerative meniscus tears are generally atraumatic and a normal part of aging. They are typically observed in middle-aged or older people. Tears are often associated with knee osteoarthritis and degenerative changes. The medial meniscus is most commonly torn. The tear pattern is normally complex with significant fraying but other tear patterns, such as horizontal cleavage, vertical, longitudinal, and flap tears, as well as free-edge fraying are also observed. The onset of symptoms is usually insidious although the majority of tears are not symptomatic. Initial treatment should always be conservative and include physical therapy, NSAIDs, topical treatment, and supervised exercise. In overweight patients, weight loss can decrease pain and improve function. Injections, including viscosupplemenation and the use of orthobiologics, can be considered in the presence of osteoarthritis. Several international orthopaedic societies have issued guidelines for progression to operative management. Mechanical symptoms of locking and catching, acute tears with clear evidence of trauma and persistent pain with failure of nonoperative treatment are considered for operative management. Arthroscopic partial meniscectomy is the most commonly performed treatment for most degenerative tears. However, repair is considered for appropriately selected tears, with special emphasis on surgical technique and patient selection. Treatment of chondral pathology at the time of surgery for meniscus tears is controversial, although a recent Delphi Consensus statement concluded that debridement of loose cartilage fragments may be considered.
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