An osteochondral lesion of the talus occurs when an ankle sprain or injury damages the cartilage and the bottom bone of the ankle joint, known as the talus. Osteochondral lesions of the talus can be challenging to diagnose because they are often masked by swelling and inflammation from the original injury. Duke foot and ankle specialists are skilled in the tools and procedures needed to identify and repair osteochondral lesions of the talus. They help you get back to the activities you enjoy, pain-free.
About Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus
If you have swelling and pain deep in your ankle, hear clicking or popping, or feel catching, the cartilage in your ankle may be torn, crushed, or damaged. In some cases, there may be a bone cyst or cavity under the cartilage. Osteochondral lesions of the talus typically occur from a traumatic ankle injury but may also develop over time if your ankle is misaligned or unstable.
Diagnosing Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus
After a thorough physical exam of your ankle, Duke foot and ankle specialists may use one or more imaging tests to diagnose or rule out an osteochondral lesion of the talus.
- X-rays to assess the talus and surrounding bones
- An MRI to examine the cartilage and ligaments in the ankle
- A CT scan to look at the bone structure and identify arthritis
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Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus Treatments
Nonsurgical treatments can be effective when osteochondral lesions are diagnosed early and the damage is limited.
- Wearing a cast or brace can reduce stress on the ankle and promote healing.
- Physical therapy helps strengthen the muscles around the ankle and improves range of motion. It may be used instead of or in addition to surgery.
- Steroid injections are sometimes used to reduce swelling and inflammation.
If nonsurgical treatments are ineffective or if your condition worsens, your doctor may recommend surgery to alleviate your pain and restore your mobility.
- If the damage is minor, your surgeon may simply “clean up” the damaged cartilage and remove any loose pieces. Sometimes, holes are drilled into the bone to stimulate healing.
- If the damage is more extensive, your surgeon may use bone grafts from your own body or from a deceased donor to replace the injured cartilage and bone.
Ankle arthroscopy is often used for these types of procedures to repair the lesion and promote healing. It is a minimally invasive surgery that require smaller incisions and results in less pain and a quicker recovery. In ankle arthroscopy, a tiny camera and small tools are inserted into the joint through small cuts made in the skin. Your surgeon uses these tools to repair the damage.
Ankle arthroscopy is often an outpatient surgery, meaning you will go home the same day. Recovery time varies based on the severity of your cartilage damage. You may wear a cast or brace for several weeks or months. Physical therapy after surgery will help improve your mobility and speed your recovery.
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