Meniscectomy refers to the removal of cartilage or meniscus in the knee. Total removal takes the entire meniscus out. This includes surfaces all the way around the knee joint--front, side, and back. Partial meniscectomy is the removal of less than half of the meniscus. The edge of the cartilage around the rim of the knee joint is left in place.
There are differences in the results of partial and total meniscectomies. In general, the doctor tries to save as much of the meniscus as possible. This is called tissue conserving. Without the meniscus, the joint space narrows and more stress is placed on the knee. Long-term studies show some functional changes as well.