Osteochondral Injuries of the Talus

An osteochondral lesion of the talus — otherwise known as osteochondritis dissecans — is a painful condition that occurs when blood supply to the area at the end of your ankle bone is cut off, loosened, or separated. Learn more about osteochondritis dissecans symptoms, treatment, and more from Georgia's ankle experts.

What You Need to Know About Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus

What Is an Osteochondral Lesion of the Talus?

Your ankle is made up of the talus, or ankle bone, which is protected by a layer of cartilage. The tibia and fibula, or lower leg bones, are located above and around the talus. This anatomy allows for free and easy motion when flexing the foot or ankle.

An osteochondral lesion of the talus — or osteochondritis dissecans — occurs when the talus's bone and/or cartilage is damaged. These lesions usually develop in two areas of the talus. Some develop in the inside and top part (also known as the medial talar dome), and others develop in the outside and top part (or anterolateral talar dome). Since there is less blood flow to the talus, an osteochondral lesion of the talus can be painful and difficult to heal.

If you're struggling with osteochondritis dissecans symptoms or ankle pain, schedule an appointment with the Foot and Ankle experts at Resurgens today.

What Causes an Osteochondral Lesion of the Talus?

An osteochondral lesion of the talus is most often caused by direct trauma to the ankle, such as an ankle sprain or fracture. About 85% of these OCD lesion talus injuries are caused by a traumatic ankle injury.

However, it may also develop as the result of too much repetitive motion in the ankle. For example, when running or jumping, the top of the talus may make hard contact with the tibia or fibula, causing ​​osteochondritis dissecans.

Osteochondral Lesion of the Talus Symptoms

Osteochondral lesion of the talus symptoms can be debilitating and painful. Some common symptoms include:

  • Locking or catching in the joint

  • Weakness and instability

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling, pain, and tenderness

  • Limited range of motion

If you are experiencing osteochondritis dissecans symptoms, schedule an appointment with a Resurgens Foot and Ankle physician today.

How is an Osteochondral Lesion of the Talus Diagnosed?

When you go to your appointment, your Resurgens physician will ask you a series of questions about the severity and origin of the injury, as well as your medical history. Then they will perform a physical exam to check your range of motion and pain levels, which may cause minor and brief discomfort.

After the physical exam, your doctor will likely order diagnostic tests such as X-rays and MRIs to rule out other potential conditions. Once we have this information, we will talk to you about your options and create a custom treatment plan for your condition.

Osteochondral Lesion of the Talus Treatment

Since no two injuries are exactly the same, osteochondral lesion of the talus treatment may vary from patient to patient. There are several non-surgical and options for osteochondritis dissecans treatment.

Non-Surgical Treatment

There are many simple, non-surgical treatments for an osteochondral lesion of the talus, such as:

  • Resting the ankle and avoiding strenuous activity.

  • Physical therapy to help restore range of motion and reduce pain.

  • Ice and elevation to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to manage pain.

  • Braces, protective footwear, casts, or crutches to help you get around while reducing stress on your ankle.

Surgical Treatment

If your ankle is not responding to non-surgical osteochondritis dissecans treatments, your physician may recommend surgery to repair it. There are a few types of procedures that can improve this condition, including:

  • Arthroscopic debridement, or "cleaning out" the osteochondral lesion, is the standard surgical treatment for osteochondritis dissecans. This procedure produces excellent results in 75%-80% of patients.

  • An osteochondral autologous autograft transfer, or OATs Procedure, is used when a patient's condition is not responding to arthroscopic debridement. The surgeons replace damaged cartilage or bone using a graft from the patient's knee joint.

  • An osteochondral allograft transfer replaces damaged tissue and bone with a graft from a donor. This procedure may be more effective for those with large and severe talar lesions.

If you are dealing with debilitating ankle pain, don't wait. Schedule an appointment at one of our Foot & Ankle Centers to learn more about your options.

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