Autologous Microfractured and Purified Adipose Tissue for Arthroscopic Management of Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus

Riccardo D’Ambrosi, Cristian Indino, Camilla Maccario, Luigi Manzi, Federico Giuseppe Usuelli

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In recent years, regenerative techniques have been increasingly studied and used to treat osteochondral lesions of the talus. In particular, several studies have focused their attention on mesenchymal stem cells derived from adipose tissue. Adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) exhibit morphological characteristics and properties similar to other mesenchymal cells, and are able to differentiate into several cellular lines. Moreover, these cells are also widely available in the subcutaneous tissue, representing 10 – 30% of the normal body weight, with a concentration of 5,000 cells per gram of tissue. In the presented technique, the first step involves harvesting ADSCs from the abdomen and a process of microfracture and purification; next, the surgical procedure is performed entirely arthroscopically, with less soft tissue dissection, better joint visualization, and a faster recovery compared with standard open procedures. Arthroscopy is characterized by a first phase in which the lesion is identified, isolated, and prepared with microperforations; the second step, performed dry, involves injection of adipose tissue at the level of the lesion. Between January 2016 and September 2016, four patients underwent arthroscopic treatment of osteochondral lesion of the talus with microfractured and purified adipose tissue. All patients reported clinical improvement six months after surgery with no reported complications. Functional scores at the latest follow-up are encouraging and confirm that the technique provides reliable pain relief and improvements in patients with osteochondral lesion of the talus.

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Arthroscopy is the gold standard for the treatment of osteochondral lesions of the talus (OLTs) with the aim of pain relief, restoring functionality, and improving quality of life, especially in young and active patients. Currently, arthroscopic techniques can be classified in three ways. The reparative technique stimulates cells derived from bone marrow through a debridement and microperforations at the level of lesion. The reconstructive technique replaces the lesion using an autologous or heterologous ostechondral graft. The regenerative technique exploits the ability of multipotent cells to differentiate and replicate to reconstruct the damaged tissue1,2,3,4,5,6.

In recent years, regenerative techniques have been the subject of numerous in vitro and in vivo studies for the treatment of OLTs, and particularly mesenchymal stem cells derived from adipose tissue (ADSCs)7,8,9. These mesenchymal stem cells exhibit morphological and functional characteristics similar to other multipotent cells, isolated from other tissues; they also have the ability to differentiate into several and different cellular lines both in vitro and in vivo10,11,12,13. The focus on research regarding these cells is mainly due to their localization, in fact they represent from 10% to 30% of normal body weight with a concentration of 5,000 cells per gram of tissue13,14. On the other hand, a factor that limits the use of these cells is related to their handling during laboratory procedures. The lipoaspirate containing aggregates of adipocytes, collagen fibers, and normal vascular components is enzymatically processed with collagen A type I, and subjected to hemolysis before culture. The aim here is to describe the protocol for the treatment of osteochondral lesions of the talus using microfractured and purified adipose tissue.


All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee, and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.