Q. What does my knee MRI actually mean?

Answered by
Dr. Atul Prakash
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Oct 15, 2016 and last reviewed on: Dec 18, 2021

Hi doctor,

Recently, I slipped from the bike and hurt my right knee. Though it is causing less pain during a normal walk, it hurts a lot while walking on stairs. I visited an orthopedic surgeon, and he told me to take an MRI. The MRI report is as follows:

Impression: Grade 3 tear involving the posterior horn and body of lateral meniscus, extending into the inferior and outer surfaces and associated with parameniscal cyst measuring 11 x 5.3 mm.

What does it actually mean? My surgeon informed me that I require an arthroscopic partial meniscectomy to treat this issue. Is it compulsory? If I had to undergo surgery, how many days would it take for me to get back to normal, like going to the office and walking? Are there any complications associated with surgery in the future? Do I need surgery immediately, or can I extend this to somewhere around a month? In surgery, will the cyst be removed along with the tear? My surgeon informed me that cysts are very common for everyone. They have the least impact on pain, and removing the cyst is necessary. Please help me out.



Welcome to

It would have been ideal if you had posted your MRI films for me to see, as, without them, I can only comment and answer your questions with limited knowledge of your condition. Cysts are not an immediate result of trauma. They develop over time and may have preceded trauma. Usually, they cause pain but less frequently cause mechanical symptoms like giving way, locking rarely visible swelling. The MRI report (attachment removed to protect patient identity) says that you have a tear in the meniscus and that too is on the lateral side. This is the reason that you may have pain on weight-bearing, locking sensation in the knee, giving way sensation, or even falls all as a result of the tear.

Surgical treatment is based more on the symptoms rather than MRI findings alone. If you fit both criteria, you are likely to benefit the most. Days off from work will depend on what was done. But, three weeks is the minimum before you return to a busy job while a desk job. You can go back as soon as the pain and swelling are down and the wound is settled. At least ten days of complete rest is a must. Lateral meniscectomy is like to cause long-term problems, especially osteoarthritis, but this is over 20 years. Also, it depends on how much is torn and how much is removed. The current concept is to remove the minimum possible. Immediate surgery is needed if your knee is locked; otherwise, wait and observe the symptoms. Let your knee settle down with the injury and then decide. I agree with your doctor's treatment.

Please send me your MRI films, report, and current symptoms to help you further.

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