Large variation in management of talar osteochondral lesions among foot and ankle surgeons: results from an international survey

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2021 May;29(5):1593-1603. doi: 10.1007/s00167-020-06370-1. Epub 2020 Nov 22.


Purpose: Surgeons management of osteochondral lesions of the talus (OLT) may be different to the published guidelines because not all treatment recommendations are feasible in every country. This study aimed to assess how OLT are managed worldwide by foot and ankle surgeons.

Methods: A web-based survey was distributed to the members of 21 local and international scientific societies focused on foot and ankle or sports medicine surgery. Answers with a prevalence greater than 75% of respondents were considered a "main tendency", whereas where prevalence exceeded 50% of respondents they were considered a "tendency".

Results: A total of 1804 surgeons from 79 different countries returned the survey. The responses to 19 of 28 questions (68%) regarding management and treatment of OLT achieved a main tendency (> 75%) or a tendency (> 50%). Symptoms reported to be most suspicious for OLT were pain on weight-bearing (WB) and after activity (83%), deep localization of the pain (62%), and any history of trauma (55%). 89% of surgeons routinely obtain an MRI, 72% routinely get WB radiographs, and 50% perform a CT scan. When treated surgically, OLTs are managed in isolation by only 7% of surgeons, and combined with ligament repair or reconstruction by 79%; 67% report simultaneous excision of soft-tissue or bony impingements (64%). For lesions less than 10-15 mm in diameter, bone marrow stimulation (BMS) represents the first choice of treatment for 78% of surgeons (main tendency). No other treatment was recorded as a tendency. For lesions greater than 15 mm in diameter no tendencies were recorded. The BMS represented the most preferred treatment being the first choice of treatment for 41% of surgeons. OLT depth had little influence on treatment choice: 71% of surgeons treating small lesions and 69% treating large lesions would choose the same treatment regardless of whether the lesion had a depth lesser or greater than 5 mm.

Conclusion: The management of OLT by foot and ankle surgeons from around the world remains extremely varied. The main clinical relevance of this study is that it provides updated information with regard to the management of OLT internationally, which could be used by surgeons worldwide in their decision-making and to inform the patient about available surgical options.

Level of evidence: Level IV.

Keywords: Ankle; Cartilage; OLT; Osteochondral lesions of the talus; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle
  • Ankle Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Ankle Injuries / surgery*
  • Arthroplasty, Subchondral
  • Bone Marrow / surgery
  • Cartilage, Articular / diagnostic imaging
  • Cartilage, Articular / injuries*
  • Cartilage, Articular / surgery*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Orthopedic Surgeons
  • Pain / etiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Radiography
  • Talus / diagnostic imaging
  • Talus / injuries*
  • Talus / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed