Treating Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Ankle in Milwaukee

Understanding OCD Ankle Lesions & How to Heal

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) can occur at any age, typically after a twisting injury of the ankle. Lingering pain after an ankle sprain or a feeling your ankle is “stuck” or “catching” can be a sign of a bone chip in the ankle. There are effective treatments for OCD of the talus. The caring surgical podiatrists at Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin will diagnose the true source of your ankle pain so you can heal.

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What is an OCD lesion of the ankle?

Ankle talus bone with fibula and tibia

The talus, fibula and tibia bones make up the ankle joint.

Osteochondral lesions are a type of fracture on the surface of the ankle bone (talus). OCD lesions are also called osteochondritis dissecans or osteochondral fractures.

Osteochondral lesions are most common in the knee joint, and the ankle is the next most frequent joint affected.

An OCD lesion of the ankle is a specific type of injury to the bottom bone in the ankle joint. Most of the talus is covered by cartilage. Along with the tibia and fibula (shin bones) this forms the ankle joint.

When a rolling or twisting type injury occurs, part of the talus can crush or shear against another bone in the ankle joint. This can cause:

  • Blistering on the layers of cartilage
  • Cyst-like lesions on the bone beneath the cartilage
  • Fracture of bone and cartilage layers
  • Partial or complete separation of a piece of bone (bone chip fracture)

Osteochondral lesion of the talus (OLT) is an umbrella term describing any injury or abnormality in the talus bone and cartilage.

Osteochondritis is a lesion that usually causes pain and stiffness of the ankle joint and affects all age groups.

Causes of OLT

Osteochondritis of the talus is caused by a traumatic ankle injury, commonly a rolling-inward ankle sprain. OLT can be caused by any twisting-type injury to the ankle if it is severe enough.

Sometimes injuries to the ankle joint are harder to heal because the blood supply to the bones of the ankle is not as abundant as elsewhere in the body.

If the blood supply to the talus is compromised by an injury, it could cause an area of the bone to die, resulting in a chip fracture. This is how osteochondritis of the ankle could be diagnosed even if there hasn’t been a recent severe ankle injury.

osteochondral lesion of the talus following a severe ankle sprain

Osteochondritis can be caused by a recent or not-so-recent ankle injury.

Symptoms of Ankle OCD Lesions

Much like other ankle sprains, osteochondritis dissecans causes swelling, pain and an inability to bear weight. Over time, swelling may persist and the pain may become more of a generalized aching.

Depending on the location of the bone chip, some patients feel a ‘catching’ sensation with certain ankle movements.

No matter how long ago your ankle injury occurred, if pain persists it’s extremely important to get a professional evaluation. If osteochondral lesions on the ankle are not diagnosed early the bone fragment is not likely to heal and can continue to cause problems.

Treatment Options for OCD Ankle Lesions

If OLT is diagnoses immediately after the injury, immobilization of the foot and ankle for a period of time usually resolves the problem. You will likely have a cast and need to use crutches for a few weeks to allow the bone injury to heal. In more severe cases however, ankle surgery may be indicated.

Osteochondritis Dissecans Ankle Surgery

Milwaukee podiatrist diagnosing bone chip in ankle after sparin

A professional diagnosis is the first step toward healing.

During the surgery, loose fragments of cartilage and bone are removed from the ankle joint and, in some cases, small drill holes are made in the defect to stimulate new blood vessels and help form scar tissue that will fill the defect.

Recovery from osteochondritis dissecans ankle surgery is likely to involve keeping your weight off the ankle for a time. Your doctor may also recommend exercises or physical therapy to improve range of motion, strength and function.

Preventing OCD Ankle Injuries

Preventing osteochondral lesions means avoiding traumatic ankle injuries such as sprains. Our podiatrists recommend:

  • Stretching before and after working out
  • Do exercises to improve your balance and strengthen your feet and ankles
  • Include stretching in your exercise routine to improve flexibility of the legs (poor range of motion in the hips and knees can put you at risk of ankle injuries)
  • Wear an ankle brace or use strapping tape to stabilize a weak ankle

If you’ve had an ankle sprain, think you might have an OCD lesion of the talus, or are having any type of issue with one or both ankles, contact a podiatrist at Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin today.

5 Milwaukee-area Podiatry Clinics Treating Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Ankle

Call or email one of our five Milwaukee podiatry clinics to schedule an appointment for your ankle pain. Our podiatrists accept insurance (including Medicaid & Medicare) and we’re happy to do a coverage check if you bring your plan information. Whether the cause of your ankle pain is a bone chip fracture or other issue, our foot and ankle specialists will get to the root cause and design an effective treatment plan.

Contact a podiatrist online to book an appointment or request more information about OLT.