Having osteochondritis dissecans in the ankle is a painful condition that can lead to arthritis if left untreated. Some cases can be treated with splinting and rest, but surgery may also be necessary.

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in the ankle is a condition that can lead to swelling, difficulty moving your ankle, weakness, and increasing pain over time.

OCD of the ankle can cause a bit of bone to break away from your ankle joint, leading to swelling and other symptoms. This bit of bone can also block blood vessels, making healing difficult.

The condition is more common in children, especially those who are active in sports. Treatment might include rest, splinting, physical therapy, or surgery to remove broken bone fragments.

OCD is a condition that causes pieces of bone at a joint to break away. It causes pain, swelling, and other symptoms. It can affect any joint, such as your knee, elbow, or ankle.

Fewer than 30 in 100,000 people will develop OCD of the ankle at some point in their lives.

The condition is most common in children. It often develops in active kids who participate in sports that put stress and pressure on the joints. For instance, soccer, gymnastics, cheerleading, and basketball can all increase the risk of OCD in the ankle.

The exact cause of OCD in the ankle isn’t always known. Its greater incidence in children who participate in sports suggests that it may sometimes be the result of a repetitive strain injury.

OCD breaks can vary in size and severity. In some cases, they can be minor fractures. In other cases, bone fragments can break away completely. When this happens, pieces of bone can block blood vessels, preventing blood flow to the area and slowing down healing.

If the bone or cartilage fragments within the joint affect your normal range of motion, you may experience locking or reduced range of motion in addition to pain.

The most common symptom of OCD in the ankle is pain that might feel similar to having a sprained ankle. Often, this pain will be most obvious when you’re walking and flexing your ankle. Other common symptoms of OCD in the ankle include:

  • swelling
  • weakness
  • tenderness
  • limited range of motion
  • difficulty flexing your foot or pointing your toes
  • a catching sensation when you’re rolling your ankle
  • a grinding or popping sound in your ankle

Treatment for OCD in the ankle will depend on the severity. If the OCD is discovered early and is minor, rest and splinting might be all you need. This can help your ankle heal while preventing further damage.

If you’re following this treatment plan, your doctor might also recommend or prescribe anti-inflammatory pain relievers to help reduce the swelling.

However, surgery is sometimes the best option to treat OCD in the ankle.

Surgery will typically be done to remove any bone fragments and repair any damage to your ankle joint.

A surgeon can do this through a minimally invasive arthroscopy procedure that can remove the bone fragment and work on your ankle by inserting a thin tube with a camera and surgical tool on the end through a very small incision made in your ankle.

You might also have physical therapy to help treat OCD in your ankle. This could happen before or after surgery. A physical therapist will work with you to strengthen your ankle joint and help you improve your range of motion.

The success of any treatment for OCD in the ankle depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • when your OCD was treated
  • the severity of your OCD
  • your overall health

For instance, returning to sports or other activities too soon after OCD ankle surgery can cause reinjury.

OCD of the ankle is rare enough that exact success rates are difficult to determine.

A small 2021 study found that almost 26% of people who had arthroscopic surgery for OCD in the ankle needed a second surgery within 5 years. However, this study included only 27 people. Larger clinical studies are needed to learn more.

Without treatment, OCD of the ankle can lead to severe pain and difficulty walking.

Delaying treatment can make surgery more likely.

Without any treatment at all, OCD in the ankle can lead to arthritis.

The exact recovery timeline depends on the treatment you receive and the severity of the OCD in your ankle.

Typically, you can expect at least 2 months of recovery time.

If surgery is necessary, it will generally take 4–5 months before you can return to all activities.

Your doctor and physical therapist will let you know when it’s safe to resume activities.

OCD of the ankle is a condition that occurs when bits of bone in your ankle joint fracture, causing pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the joint. These bits can break away, blocking blood vessels and making healing difficult. Treatment for OCD of the ankle depends on the severity of the condition.

Sometimes rest and splinting are enough to treat the condition, but in other cases surgery to remove broken bone pieces can be the best option. After surgery, physical therapy can help you regain strength and mobility in your ankle.