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Procedure - Ankle Cartilage Defects

The ankle is a complex and important joint which consists of the talus, tibia, and fibula bones. During an ankle injury the cartilage of the talus bone is often compromised. The most common injury to the ankle is a sprain, with fractures coming in at a close second. When the bones of the ankle are injured there are often ankle cartilage defects, which cause residual pain and issues with mobility over time. At Ogden Clinic in Utah, we are familiar with ankle cartilage defects and the best way to treat them.

When people injure their ankle through a sprain or fracture, the cartilage is at risk for damage as the injury gets worse. You can often identify a problem with the cartilage by looking for the following symptoms:

  • Deep pain inside the ankle
  • Stiffness and weakness
  • Swelling
  • Locking and catching of the joint

Two common ankle cartilage defects that we see are osteochondral lesions and osteochondritis dissecans. An osteochondral lesion is a small fracture in the surface of the cartilage of the talus. They commonly occur during the abnormal motion of the bone during an ankle sprain. Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition where the bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies, due to lack of blood flow. When this happens the bone and/or cartilage can break loose causing pain and decreased joint motion.

For patients with minor defects, or those who prefer a conservative approach, your doctor can immobilize the injury with a cast or boot to keep you from bearing weight on it while it heals. Following this period of healing, your doctor will recommend physical therapy to help you increase range of motion and strength in the ankle joint.

If, however, the ankle cartilage defect is causing serious problems, your Ogden Clinic doctor may recommend a variety of surgical options. One of the most common surgeries is arthroscopy and debridement. This is a minimally invasive procedure where your doctor makes a small incision on the ankle and uses an operating tool with a camera to remove debris from the torn cartilage or a bone chip. When this procedure fails to bring the patient pain relief, more complex options can be considered.

Whether you have recently been injured or noticed pain developing over time, ankle cartilage defects can cause issues with mobility and range of motion. Contact our Foot and Ankle Orthopedics department to schedule a consultation for your ankle cartilage defect today.


Powell, Brian, MD
4700 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden, UT
801-475-3300