Patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the ankle traditionally are told that their only hope is an ankle fusion. Since 2006, injections of the patient’s own stem cells have allowed many to avoid surgery and to recover ankle function with minimal pain. Research involving both small and large osteochondral lesions of the main ankle joint published in the May 2013 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine supports the use of stem cells as a viable treatment for osteoarthritis.

What’s interesting is that this study involved older patients who underwent surgical microfracture of the ankle lesion with or without a stem-cell injection. While patients receiving the combination treatment of stem cells and microfracture surgery had less pain and better function than those who had only the surgery, what was really fascinating was that patients with larger lesions for whom microfracture surgery usually fails did well when stem-cell injections were part of their treatment. This is consistent with other data showing excellent results in many patients with larger cartilage lesions of the talus who skip microfracture surgery altogether in favor of stem-cell injection.

“Ankle arthritis treatment” first appeared as a post on the Regenexx blog.