If after reading the symptoms of a torn meniscus if you think your meniscus may in fact be torn, the next thing to do is to visit your doctor. Anytime you have any knee pain at all it is smart to visit your doctor because it can quickly become worse if not diagnosed and treated. Normally your doctor is going to perform a physical exam and examine your knee by moving it and feeling it. This will help the doctor to get an idea of if you have a torn meniscus or other knee injury. If they believe your meniscus is torn, they likely will want to confirm that by conducting an imaging test, like an MRI, or an arthroscopic test. In most cases, an MRI, ultrasound, or x-ray is enough to diagnosis the meniscus tear.
Imaging Tests for a Torn Meniscus
- MRI: An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is the most common test used to diagnose a torn meniscus. The MRI allows the doctor to get a look at both hard and soft tissue in the knee and allows them to see most meniscus tears. They also can examine other tendons in the knee and determine exactly what the root of the knee pain is.
- X-Ray: Your doctor may suggest an x-ray when they are determining the cause of your knee pain. This actually isn’t to see if your meniscus is torn but is actually to make sure there are no fractures or broken bones causing pain. Since the meniscus is made up of cartilage it won’t show up on an X-ray, and consequently x-rays are used to diagnose a meniscus tear because they rule out other causes.
- Ultrasound: Some doctors will use an ultrasound in addition to an MRI to diagnose a torn meniscus because with an ultrasound they can also look at the cartilage when the knee is moving. This shows the doctor is there are any flaps or cartilage moving in the knee that could be missed in an MRI.
Arthroscopic Tests for a Torn Meniscus
In rare cases, your doctor might need to use a small arthroscopic camera to diagnose a meniscus tear. During this procedure, a tiny camera and light will be inserted into your knee through a small incision, and the doctor will be able to see more of the meniscus and knee. This can help to diagnose smaller tears or pinpoint the exact location of tears and other knee problems.