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Open lift-drill-fill-fix for medial osteochondral lesions of the talus: surgical technique.

OBJECTIVE: Osteochondral lesions of the talus (OLT) with a fragment on the talar dome that fail conservative treatment and need surgical treatment can benefit from in situ fixation of the OLT. Advantages of fixation include the preservation of native cartilage, a high quality subchondral bone repair, and the restoration of the joint congruency by immediate fragment stabilization. To improve the chance of successful stabilization, adequate lesion exposure is critical, especially in difficult to reach lesions located on the posteromedial talar dome. In this study we describe the open Lift, Drill, Fill, Fix (LDFF) technique for medial osteochondral lesions of the talus with an osteochondral fragment. As such, the lesion can be seen as an intra-articular non-union that requires debridement, bone-grafting, stabilization, and compression. The LDFF procedure combines these needs with access through a medial distal tibial osteotomy.

INDICATIONS: Symptomatic osteochondral lesion of the talus with a fragment (≥ 10 mm diameter and ≥ 3 mm thick as per computed tomography [CT] scan) situated on the medial talar dome which failed 3-6 months conservative treatment.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Systemic disease, including active bacterial arthritis, hemophilic or other diffuse arthropathies, rheumatoid arthritis of the ankle joint, and malignancies. Neuropathic disease. End-stage ankle osteoarthritis or Kellgren and Lawrence score 3 or 4 [3]. Ipsilateral medial malleolus fracture less than 6 months prior. Relative contra-indication: posttraumatic stiffness with range of motion (ROM) < 5°. Children with open physis: do not perform an osteotomy as stabilization of the osteotomy may lead to early closure of the physis, potentially resulting in symptomatic varus angulation of the distal tibia. In these cases only arthrotomy can be considered.

SURGICAL TECHNIQUE: The OLT is approached through a medial distal tibial osteotomy, for which the screws are predrilled and the osteotomy is made with an oscillating saw and finished with a chisel in order to avoid thermal damage. Hereafter, the joint is inspected and the osteochondral fragment is identified. The cartilage is partially incised at the borders and the fragment is then lifted as a hood of a motor vehicle (lift). The subchondral bone is debrided and thereafter drilled to allow thorough bone marrow stimulation (drill) and filled with autologous cancellous bone graft from either the iliac crest or the distal tibia (fill). The fragment is then fixated (fix) in anatomical position, preferably with two screws to allow additional rotational stability. Finally, the osteotomy is reduced and fixated with two screws.

POSTOPERATIVE MANAGEMENT: Casting includes 5 weeks of short leg cast non-weightbearing and 5 weeks of short leg cast with weightbearing as tolerated. At 10-week follow-up, a CT scan is made to confirm fragment and osteotomy healing, and patients start personalized rehabilitation under the guidance of a physical therapist.

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