Autologous Osteochondral Transplantation for Large Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus Is a Viable Option in an Athletic Population.

Research paper by Anthony A Nguyen, Arul A Ramasamy, Melanie M Walsh, Louise L McMenemy, James D F JDF Calder

Indexed on: 01 May '21Published on: 02 Nov '19Published in: The American journal of sports medicine


Autologous osteochondral transplantation (AOT) has been shown to be a viable treatment option for large osteochondral lesions of the talus. However, there are limited data regarding the management of large lesions in an athletic population, notably with regard to return to sport. Our investigation focused on assessing both qualitative and quantitative outcomes in the high-demand athlete with large (>150 mm) lesions. AOT is a viable option in athletes with large osteochondral lesions and can allow them to return to sport at their preinjury level. Case series; Level of evidence, 4. The study population was limited to professional and amateur athletes (Tegner score, >6) with a talar osteochondral lesion size of 150 mm or greater. The surgical intervention was AOT with a donor site from the lateral femoral condyle. Clinical outcomes at a minimum of 24 months included return to sport, visual analog scale (VAS) for pain score, and Foot and Ankle Outcome Score (FAOS). In addition, graft incorporation was evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) using MOCART (magnetic resonance observation of cartilage repair tissue) scores at 12 months after surgery. A total of 38 athletes, including 11 professional athletes, were assessed. The mean follow-up was 45 months. The mean lesion size was 249 mm. Thirty-three patients returned to sport at their previous level, 4 returned at a lower level compared with preinjury, and 1 did not return to sport (mean return to play, 8.2 months). The VAS improved from 4.53 preoperatively to 0.63 postoperatively ( = .002). FAOSs improved significantly in all domains ( < .001). Two patients developed knee donor site pain, and both had 3 osteochondral plugs harvested. Univariant analysis demonstrated no association between preoperative patient or lesion characteristics and ability to return to sport. However, there was a strong correlation between MOCART scores and ability to return to sport. The area under receiver operating characteristic of the MOCART score and return to play was 0.891 ( = .005), with a MOCART score of 52.50 representing a sensitivity of 0.85 and specificity of 0.80 in determining ability to return to one's previous level of activity. Our study suggests that AOT is a viable option in the management of large osteochondral talar defects in an athletic population, with favorable return to sport level, patient satisfaction, and FAOS/VAS scores. The ability to return to sport is predicated upon good graft incorporation, and further research is required to optimize this technique. Our data also suggest that patients should be aware of the increased risk of developing knee donor site pain when 3 osteochondral plugs are harvested.