Cartilage in the ankle joint can be subject to injury or progressively deterioration with age, known as osteoarthritis. If the cartilage is only injured on one specific spot we call it an osteochondral lesion because very often the bone beneath the cartilage also has a little injury. These injuries sometimes happen with an acute trauma or with chronic overload during sports performance. In teenagers those lesions might also happen as a consequence of lack of blood supply to the bone and cartilage. The reason for a cartilage lesion can also be instability of your ankle joint and thus overload in specific zones of your ankle.
Very often an osteochondral lesion becomes painful. You will feel pain while putting load on your ankle either while walking or performing sports. The pain is normally felt deep within the joint. The mobility of your joint stays normal.
Depending on the size and localization of the injury, different surgical treatment options can be applied: microfracturing, cartilage cell culturing (MACI), or autologous matrix induced chondrogenesis (AMIC). One of the newest techniques is to take stem cells from the iliac bone and implant them into your ankle joint to facilitate the growing of new cartilage. The aim of these techniques is to restore the cartilage to reduce pain and restore joint function. Some of these techniques can be performed by arthroscopy.
After surgery you will have to non weight bear for 6 weeks and use a device that passively moves your ankle joint for several hours a day. This will help your cartilage to grow.