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One of the most common benign tumors of the bone is osteochondroma. Let us have a look at osteochondroma and know more about this condition from the following paragraphs.

What is Osteochondroma?

The non-cancerous bone tumor that appears as a bony mushroom-like projection on the external surface of a bone, near the growth plate, is called as osteochondroma. This projection commonly occurs around the knee or upper arm. However, it can occur in any bone.

Osteochondroma develops during the skeletal development of children in the age group of 13 and 15. The tumor stops developing once the bone plate fuses at puberty. Osteocondromas from 35% of all non-cancerous tumors and about 8% of all bone tumors.These bony projections are often discovered by chance. Their occurrence is quite sporadic and found mostly in young adults under the age of 20 years, especially in males.

Classification of Osteochondroma

Osteochondroma is classified according to the stage the disease has reached.

  • Stage I where the tumor has stopped growing
  • Stage II where the tumor continues to grow actively
  • Stage III where the active tumor damages the surrounding bone

Symptoms of Osteochondroma

The osteochondroma symptoms include:

  • A hard, bony lump that is painless, but pain and irritation of tissues around the lump
  • The lump may increase in size
  • Limited movements and normal functions of the bone due to osteochondroma growing inward
  • Fracture of long bone with little force
  • Bone deformity
  • Numbness, weakness, loss of pulse and changes in color in affected limb where the osteochondroma affects the nerve or blood vessel
  • Osteochondroma under a tendon causes pain and restricted joint movement
  • Swelling or fracture may occur at the base of the tumor stalk

In most cases, osteochondroma is asymptomatic in nature. They are often discovered incidentally, when the patient gets an X ray for a fracture or inflammation.

Causes of Osteocondroma

The exact cause of osteochondromais still unknown. These osteochondromas have a long, slender stalk covered with a head that looks like a cauliflower or a mushroom. The cartilaginous cap is about 2 cm thick and it tends to wear off with age. When it is thicker than 2 cm, it indicates a malignant tumor. Recent studies show it may be an autosomal dominant inherited disease. Mutations in EXT1 and EXT2 genes on the chromosome 8 and 11 can lead to osteochondroma.

Diagnosis of Osteochondromas

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Osteochondroma is diagnosed only when they cause some kind of discomfort. In most cases, they are discovered in X rays carried out for other reasons. Tests to diagnose osteochondroma include:

  • X rays
  • CT Scan
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound
  • Angiography
  • Biopsy of tumor

Treatment for Osteochondroma

As these are benign tumors, they do not cause any effect on life expectancy. As the lump is asymptomatic and does not cause any problems in many cases, it is left alone. No treatment is required in this case. If the lump is very large and causes problems with movement or is growing at a very dangerous location, it is surgically removed. Also, tumors that are malignant are removed with the help of surgery. Recovery after surgery takes a few months.

Osteochondroma does not cause any major complications. It is found to be malignant in less than 1% of the cases. Speak to your doctor regarding osteochondroma and the impact it may have on your individual health.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015

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