Why does a bucket-handle meniscus tear need to be fixed surgically?

Meniscus tears are among the most common knee injuries that require surgery. Are there certain types of meniscus tears that can heal without surgery? And are there some tears that automatically do require surgery? In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I discuss a bucket-handle meniscus tear and its treatment options.

Kamran asks:
I recently had an injury, and my MRI result shows that I have bucket-handle type tear in medial meniscus with a double PCL sign. Do you think it has to be operated on? Any chance that it can be treated by physiotherapy?

A bucket-handle meniscus tear is a tear in which the inner torn fragment can flip back and forth like the handle of a bucket. It is a common type of tear in young athletes.

A bucket-handle meniscus tear is one of several types of meniscus tears.

It almost always requires surgery for a few reasons. On one hand, it doesn’t heal on its own. Also, it often flips into the center of the knee and blocks knee motion.

Fortunately, it is often possible for a surgeon to repair a bucket-handle meniscus tear by placing sutures or anchors. It is a longer recovery than a partial meniscectomy, but if the repair heals, the patient maintains the entire meniscus to serve as a shock absorber in the future.

Also read:
Timing of meniscus repair surgery
Is it possible to replace a trimmed meniscus tear?

Please remember, while I appreciate your questions, I cannot and will not offer specific medical advice by email, on my website, on my podcast, or in social media. My responses are meant to provide general medical information and education. Please consult your physician or health care provider for your specific medical concerns.

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