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There are broadly two kinds of meniscal tears, those which are acute and are sustained through injury, and those which are degenerative.
Degenerative Meniscal Tears
Degenerative tears are a result of the natural aging process, as over time the meniscus loses its elasticity (similar to your skin) and becomes harder. This makes it more likely to tear. These tears may be purely incidental findings on scans and may not cause any problems.
Acute Meniscal Tears
Acute tears of the meniscus occur as the result of an injury to the knee. These are may be associated with other injuries such as ACL injuries or articular cartilage injuries. It is vital that your knee is assessed correctly for other injuries as they often require combined treatment. These tears typically heal well after repair, and it is advisable to be seen as soon as possible to start the healing process and prevent further injury.
Patterns of Meniscal Tears
The meniscus can tear in various ways(see image at right), they can be A: Horizontal B: Radial C: Longitudinal D: Flap E: Parrot Beak F: Bucket Handle.
Degenerative Meniscal Tear: note the ‘shaggy’ edge of the tear