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Osteochondroma

(Osteocartilaginous Exostosis)

Pronounced: Oss-tee-oh-kon-drome-a

Definition

An osteochondroma is the most common type of benign bone tumor. It is from cartilage tissue in children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 20. It usually appears on the bones of the arms and legs, and, less often, on the pelvic bones and shoulder blades. An osteochondroma ordinarily stops growing when a person reaches full height.

Most tissue in the body can grow beyond normal limits and form a mass, also known as a tumor. Tumors come in 2 forms: benign and malignant. The malignancies, which are referred to as cancer, rarely stop growing. The benign tumors reach a certain size and then stop.

Cartilage

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Causes    TOP

The cause of osteochondroma remains unknown. A hereditary form of the disease may be related to one or more gene mutations.

Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your risk of osteochondroma include:

  • Multiple hereditary exostoses (rare condition)—numerous osteochondromas develop throughout the skeletal system often leading to bone deformities and an increased risk of cancer
  • Radiation therapy or exposure as a child
  • Salter-Harris fractures

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms may include:

  • A hard, bony lump that may be:
    • Painless and not tender, but the tissue around it may become irritated and painful
    • Enlarging in size
  • A long bone that breaks with less than the usual amount of force
  • Pressure on nearby structures, including nerves

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will likely be referred to an orthopedic surgeon for further diagnosis and treatment.

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

Treatment    TOP

Treatment options include the following:

Monitoring

If the lump is not uncomfortable or likely to cause a fracture or other problem, and there is no evidence that it is malignant, it can be left alone. Your doctor may want to retest periodically.

Surgical Excision

If the lump is large, uncomfortable, in a dangerous location, or suspected of being cancerous, surgical removal is the treatment of choice. This involves a general or regional anesthetic and a few days in the hospital. If the bone is weakened by the surgery, the surgeon may need to rebuild it, and the recovery time may be extended to weeks or months.

Since remnants of the tumor may remain after surgery, your doctor may want to retest you every few years to make sure it doesn’t start to grow again.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent osteochondroma.

RESOURCES:

American Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.ca
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

References:

Murphey M, Choi J, Krandsdorf MJ, Flemming DJ, Gannon FH. Imaging of osteochondroma: variants and complications with radiologic-pathologic correlation. Radiographics. 2000;20(5):1407-1434.
Osteochondroma. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 2012. Accessed June 18, 2015.
Osteochondroma. Bone Tumor website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 18, 2015.
Osteochondroma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116166/Osteochondroma. Updated April 24, 2014. Accessed September 27, 2016.
Osteochondroma. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 18, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 5/28/2014

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