Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus

Call for an Appointment 919-613-7797

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.

Find an Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus Doctor
Matching Results
Filter Results
Filter by:
Use My Current Location
Located Near You
Loading Results
Showing of Doctors
Load More View All

About Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus

If you have swelling and pain deep in your ankle, hear clicking or popping, or feel catching or locking in your ankle joint, 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. 

Call for an Appointment

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 look at the talus and surrounding bones
  • An MRI to examine the cartilage and ligaments in the ankle
  • A weight-bearing CT scan to assess bone structure and alignment and to look for arthritis 
Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus Treatments

Nonsurgical 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.

Ankle Surgery

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 a couple of weeks or months. Physical therapy after surgery will help improve your mobility and speed your recovery.

Best Orthopaedic Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our orthopaedics program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

Why Choose Duke

Extensive Experience

Duke foot and ankle specialists are board-certified and fellowship-trained in foot and ankle surgery and perform hundreds of procedures each year. 

Research-Driven Care

We follow patient outcomes, measure surgical success, and fine-tune our techniques to ensure you have the most options and experience the best outcome. We also study how lower limb alignment affects the development of ankle instability and ankle cartilage injuries. Duke is a leader in cartilage restoration research, and many of our surgeons are involved in developing new surgical techniques using 3D printing.

Minimally Invasive Techniques

If your osteochondral lesion requires surgery, we are experts in minimally invasive surgical techniques. The small incisions translate to faster recovery and a quicker return to your daily activities.

Dedicated Physical Therapy

Our physical therapists focus exclusively on foot and ankle injuries and rehabilitation. They work with your doctor to devise a personalized rehabilitation plan based on your injury and goals for treatment.

This page was medically reviewed on 11/24/2023 by