Meniscus (anatomy)

Meniscus (anatomy)
Meniscus (anatomy)
Head of right tibia seen from above, showing menisci and attachments of ligaments
Left knee-joint from behind, showing interior ligaments

In anatomy, a meniscus (from Greek μηνίσκος meniskos, "crescent"[1]) is a crescent-shaped fibrocartilaginous structure that, in contrast to articular disks, only partly divides a joint cavity.[2] In humans it is present in the knee, acromioclavicular, sternoclavicular, and temporomandibular joints;[3] in other organisms they may be present in other joints (e.g. between the forearm bones of birds). A small meniscus also occurs in the radio-carpal joint.

It usually refers to either of two specific parts of cartilage of the knee: The lateral and medial menisci. Both are cartilaginous tissues that provide structural integrity to the knee when it undergoes tension and torsion. The menisci are also known as 'semi-lunar' cartilages — referring to their half-moon "C" shape — a term which has been largely dropped by the medical profession, but which led to the menisci being called knee 'cartilages' by the lay public.



The menisci of the knee joint are two pads of cartilaginous tissue which serve to disperse friction in the knee joint between the lower leg (tibia) and the thigh (femur). They are shaped concave on the top and flat on the bottom, articulating with the tibia. They are attached to the small depressions (fossae) between the condyles of the tibia (intercondyloid fossa), and towards the center they are unattached and their shape narrows to a thin shelf.[4]


The menisci act to disperse the weight of the body and reduce friction during movement. Since the condyles of the femur and tibia meet at one point (which changes during flexion and extension), the menisci spread the load of the body's weight.[5] This differs from sesamoid bones, which are made of osseous tissue and whose function primarily is to protect the nearby tendon and to increase its mechanical effect.


Scar from partial left menisectomy in 1980; more recent surgery leaves a smaller footprint

In sports and orthopedics, people will sometimes speak of "torn cartilage" and actually be referring to an injury to one of the menisci.

The Unhappy Triad is a set of commonly co-occurring knee injuries which includes injury to the medial meniscus.

Two surgeries are most common of the meniscus. Depending on location, age, and doctor's preference, people usually either repair it or remove a part or all of it (meniscectomy). Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

See also


  1. ^ μηνίσκος, "small moon", is diminutive of μήνη, "moon", from the root ma-, "measure", which reflects the fact the time was measured according to the phases of the moon. The word was also used for curved things in general, such as a necklace or a line of battle. (Lexicon of Orthopaedic Etymology, p 199)
  2. ^ Platzer (2004), p 208
  3. ^ Meniscus, Stedman's (27th ed.)
  4. ^ Gray's (1918), 7b
  5. ^ Cluett, Meniscus Tear — Torn Cartilage


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Meniscus — For other uses, see Meniscus (anatomy), Lens (optics)#Types of simple lenses, and Meniscus Film Festival. A: The bottom of a concave meniscus. B: The top of a convex meniscus. The meniscus (plural: menisci, from the Greek for crescent ) is the… …   Wikipedia

  • Meniscus — The word meniscus comes from the Greek and refers to a crescent shaped structure. Today a meniscus is something that is shaped like a crescent moon or a croissant pastry. A meniscus can be an anatomic feature. For example, the medial meniscus of… …   Medical dictionary

  • meniscus — me·nis·cus || mɪ nɪskÉ™s n. lens that is convex on one side and concave on the other (Optics); crescent or crescent shaped body; disk of cartilage that cushions between the ends of two bones (Anatomy); curvature of the upper surface of liquid …   English contemporary dictionary

  • meniscus — [mɪ nɪskəs] noun (plural menisci sʌɪ) 1》 Physics the curved upper surface of a liquid in a tube. 2》 a thin lens convex on one side and concave on the other. 3》 Anatomy a thin fibrous cartilage between the surfaces of some joints. Origin C17: mod …   English new terms dictionary

  • meniscus — n. (in anatomy) a crescent shaped structure, such as the fibrocartilaginous disc that divides the cavity of a synovial joint …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • Medial meniscus — Head of right tibia seen from above, showing menisci and attachments of ligaments. (Medial meniscus visible at left.) …   Wikipedia

  • Tear of meniscus — Classification and external resources Head of right tibia seen from above, showing menisci and attachments of ligaments ICD 10 Current injury S …   Wikipedia

  • Outline of human anatomy — See also: Index of anatomy related articles Human anatomy, a branch of anatomy, is the scientific study of the morphology of the adult human. It is subdivided into gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy (also called topographical… …   Wikipedia

  • Lateral meniscus — Infobox Anatomy Name = Lateral meniscus Latin = meniscus lateralis GraySubject = 93 GrayPage = 343 Caption = Head of right tibia seen from above, showing menisci and attachments of ligaments. Caption2 = Left knee joint from behind, showing… …   Wikipedia

  • Discoid meniscus — on coronal proton density weighted MRI Discoid meniscus is a rare human anatomic variant that usually affects the lateral meniscus of the knee[1]. Usually a person with this anomaly has no complaints, however, it may present as pain, swelling, or …   Wikipedia

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