People with ankle injuries who do not respond successfully to initial treatment may fully recover with the help of two new procedures, according to a new study.
The study reviews emerging techniques that have shown promise in treating injuries to the talus, the small bone, which is located between the heel bone and the lower bones of the leg. The talus helps form the ankle joint.
Lead author Matthew Mitchell, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in private practice in Casper, Wyoming, said that although most injuries to the talus can be successfully treated using traditional "first-line" therapies involving removal of dead tissue (called "debridement") and drilling, about one-fifth to one-quarter of people with ankle injuries need additional "second-line" restorative treatment to heal successfully.
He said that the two new techniques rely on cells grown in a lab, and eliminate the need for ostetomy (cutting the bone of the tibia) in some cases.
Autologous chondorcyte implantation, or ACI, involves removing cartilage cells from the knee or the ankle and growing them in a lab. Once grown, the cartilage is transplanted to the talus. ACI usually involves an ostetomy in order to implant the cells.
In matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation, or MACI, cells are grown on a special backing material, or "matrix," and then transplanted to the talus. In the authors' experience, an osteotomy is not necessary to implant the cells.
According to Dr. Mitchell, of these two techniques, the newer MACI technique may offer the most benefits to the patient.
"Both ACI and MACI show a lot of promise, but I think the advantage of MACI is that an osteotomy is not necessary in order to successfully implant the matrix. You only need to make an incision to place the graft, which decreases the morbidity of the procedure quite a bit," he said.
"In my experience so far with this emerging technique in Australia, the results have been as good as, or better than, other restorative techniques," he added.
The study has been published in the July 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS).