Meniscal tear can usually be diagnosed without MRI

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May 6, 2019 - 10:01 AM

Dear Dr. Roach: While chasing my cat, I dove to the ground and both my knees took a beating. They were bruised but felt fine. A few days after this, my left knee started to bother me. I put on a brace to see if that would help (as it usually does), but it didn’t. I went to my chiropractor a few days later and had an adjustment and deep tissue massage. The next day, I was walking my dog and had to stop, as I couldn’t move my knee. About 13 years ago, I had a torn meniscus in the same knee, and it healed without surgery with the assistance of my chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncture. 

I called my doctor’s office, and he was out of town. His nurse suggested that I go to an urgent care facility to have an X-ray of my knee, which I did. The doctor said that nothing was broken but that I should follow up with an MRI. I saw my doctor a few days later and brought my X-ray, etc. He said I don’t need an MRI. I am not looking for knee surgery, but wouldn’t an MRI indicate if it is a torn meniscus, pulled ligament, osteoarthritis, etc., so I could get the proper treatment? What would that be? — R.Z.

Answer: The menisci are ring-shaped cartilage structures that sit on top of the tibia and provide stability and shock absorption to the knee. Given the mechanism of injury and your prior history, a meniscal tear is a very likely possibility. Symptoms that support a tear in the meniscus would include a locking of the knee or a giving sensation while walking, often associated with pain.

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