Bucket Handle Meniscus Tears: What You Need to Know

Written by: Jamie Swickard

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Jeff Gittins

What Is a Bucket Handle Meniscus Tear?

A bucket handle meniscus tear is a subtype of meniscus tear named for its resemblance to the handle on a bucket. The tear separates the outer and inner circumference of the meniscus. In these tears, the meniscus will generally fold over on itself within the knee joint, while the outer portion of the meniscus remains attached to the outer tibial plateau.

Bucket handle meniscus tears can present with ACL tears as well due to the mechanism of action of the injury. In most cases with a torn meniscus, medial meniscus tears occur more often than lateral meniscus tears.

If you are experiencing pain in your knee joint and would like to know whether you have a bucket handle meniscus tear, then schedule a consultation and physical examination with our expert physicians at OrthoNeuro. We provide accurate diagnoses and tailor-made treatment options. Call us today or schedule an appointment online!

What Are the Causes of Bucket Handle Meniscus Tears?

Bucket handle meniscus tears are most common in young athletes under 35 years old due to the mechanism of the injury. These tears come from twisting injuries, which consist of the planting of the foot and rotating of the leg, or misstepping causing the patient to squat. Bucket handle tears can lead to arthritis.

What Symptoms Can One Experience with a Bucket Handle Meniscus Tear?

The symptoms of a bucket handle tear present as a typical meniscus tear. Patients with a tear will experience locking, catching, and giving away of the knee. Swelling and instability of the knee may be present as well. Patients can experience a popping of their knee or feel like something is stuck in their knee.

There will be periods with no symptoms as the meniscus reduces itself; however, patients will experience flare-ups of these symptoms if the meniscus is caught in the knee joint. 

How to Diagnose a Bucket Handle Tear?

Orthopedic surgeons diagnose a bucket handle tear through a combination of clinical symptoms and MRI scans to confirm the tear. During these examinations, a physician will be able to see specifically what is injured in the knee, including an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament or the posterior cruciate ligament.

When to See the Orthopedic Surgeon?

It is time to see an orthopedic surgeon when there is pain in the knee that limits daily activity, swelling, and locking of the knee. Visit an orthopedic surgeon if there is a “pop” in the knee while doing activities as well. 

What Treatments Are Available for Bucket Handle Meniscus Tears?

Typically, knee arthroscopy is indicated with a bucket handle meniscus tear. Most meniscus tears are treated with either a meniscectomy, which is the removal of the torn portion of the meniscus, or a meniscus repair, which consists of stitching the torn meniscus back together for it to heal. This depends on whether the tear’s location has an adequate blood supply to heal on its own.

For bucket handle meniscus tears, a circumferential compression stitch is required. In this procedure, the edges of the tear are aligned and uniformly compressed to return the meniscus back to its original anatomy. The patient will receive crutches and an immobilizing brace during recovery.

What Is the Prognosis?

After a bucket handle meniscus tear repair, the patient’s allowed range of motion could be limited for up to the first 6 weeks postoperatively. Physical therapy will be indicated, which will improve the range of motion, stability, and strength. Checkups with the orthopedic physician will be two and four weeks after the procedure.

Patients with bucket handle meniscus tears should be able to return to normal activities after recovery. Repairing the meniscus within a few weeks of the injury provides the best chance of recovery for the patient. This prevents the meniscus from staying in the flipped position and allows less time for the meniscus to tear more. 


If you have pain in your knee area and would like an accurate diagnosis to see whether you have a bucket handle meniscal tear, then schedule an appointment with our team at OrthoNeuro today!

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