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The 27th Annual Meeting of the European Orthopaedic Research Society (EORS), Maastricht, The Netherlands, 2–4 October 2019.


Surgical microfracture is considered a first line treatment for talar osteochondral defects. Pain reduction, functional improvement and patient satisfaction are described to be 61–86% in both primary and secondary osteochondral defects. However, limited research is available whether improvement of the surgical technique is possible. We do know that the current rigid awls and drills limit the access to all locations in human joints and increase the risk of heat necrosis of bone. Application of a flexible water jet instrument to drill the microfracture holes can improve the reachability of the defect without inducing thermal damage. The aim of this study is to determine whether water jet drilling is a safe alternative compared to conventional microfracture awls by studying potential side effects and perioperative complications, as well as the quality of cartilage repair tissue in a caprine model. 6 mm diameter talar chondral defects were created bilaterally in 6 goats (12 samples). One defect in each goat was treated with microfracture holes created with conventional awls. The contralateral defect was treated with holes created with 5 second water jet bursts at a pressure of 50 MPa. The pressure was generated with a custom-made setup using an air compressor connected to a 300 litre accumulator that powered an air driven high-pressure pump (P160 Resato, Roden, The Netherlands, www.resato.com). Postoperative complications were recorded. After 24 weeks, analyses were performed using the ICRS macroscopic score and the modified O'Driscoll histological score. Wilcoxon ranked sum tests were used to assess significant differences between the two instrument groups using each goat as its own control (p ≤ 0.05). One postoperative complication was signs of a prolonged wound healing with swelling and reluctance to weight bearing starting two days after surgery on the water jet side. Antibiotics were administered which resolved the symptoms. The median total ICRS score for the tali treated with water jets was 9,5 (range: 6–12) and 9 (range 2–11) for Observer 1 and 2 respectively; and for the tali treated conventionally this was 9,5 (range 5–11) and 9 range (2–10). The median total Modified O'Driscoll score for the tali treated with water jets was 15 (range: 7–17) and 13 (range: 3–20) for Observer 1 and 2 respectively; and for the tali treated conventionally was 13 (range: 11–21) and 15 (range: 9–20). No differences were found in complication rate or repair tissue quality between the two techniques. The results suggest that water jet drilling can be a safe alternative for conventional microfracture treatment. Future research and development will include the design of an arthroscopic prototype of the water jet drill. The focus will be on stability in nozzle positioning and minimized sterile saline consumption to further the decrease the risk of soft tissue damage.