An osteochondroma is a benign form of a tumor on the bone. Similar types of tumors are, for example, so-called ecchondromas, which develop into an osteochondroma through ossification processes. The tumor arises from an area of bone that is near a joint (medical term metaphysis).
What is an osteochondroma?
The osteochondroma is also synonymously called cartilaginous exostosis. In principle, it is a benign tumor of the bones. Osteochondromas occur in the majority of cases near the joints. They emerge stalk-like from the bone. The so-called long tubular bones are particularly frequently affected by osteochondromas. Basically, the shape of the tumors is often reminiscent of fungi. See usvsukenglish for What does the abbreviation MACD stand for.
Female patients are less likely to develop osteochondromas than males. Osteochondromas are among the most common types of bone tumors. In many cases they develop in childhood patients. After the bone growth processes are completed after puberty, the osteochondromas usually stop growing.
Osteochondromas are generally characterized by the fact that they only cause symptoms in a few cases. Impairment from the tumor usually arises only when other areas near the osteochondroma are crushed. These are, for example, blood vessels or nerve tracts. In the majority of cases, osteochondromas do not show any tenderness either.
Therapeutic interventions are only required when symptoms occur. The osteochondroma is usually completely removed. Basically, osteochondromas are characterized by a relatively positive prognosis, whereby degeneration occurs only extremely rarely.
The exact causes for the development of osteochondromas are not known. In the majority of cases, bone tumors develop in the area of the outer femur. The proximal humerus bone is also often affected by an osteochondroma. Osteochondroma growth occurs in the shape of a stalk or mushroom. In some cases, an osteochondroma leads to malformations in the surrounding bone area due to masses.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Osteochondromas manifest themselves in various signs and symptoms. In most cases, bone tumors stop growing before the end of the second decade of life. The affected area is often swollen, but people do not feel any pain.
Actual symptoms from the osteochondroma often only arise when nearby nerve fibers, muscles or blood vessels are squeezed or displaced by the tumour. The sick patients feel pain in the neighboring muscles, for example. In many cases, however, osteochondromas do not show any symptoms. Some affected individuals are too small for their age. It is also possible that arms or legs have different lengths.
Diagnosis & course of disease
The diagnosis of osteochondroma is based on the typical symptoms of the tumor. In the case of characteristic changes in the bones, a suitable doctor should be consulted about the signs. In the first step, within the framework of an anamnesis, he discusses the present complaints as well as their beginning and potential development factors.
A family history may provide significant clues to the presence of the disease if there are similar cases in the family. The doctor then examines the individual signs of the disease using various methods. It is usually particularly important to carry out an X-ray examination. Because such imaging procedures usually make the osteochondroma relatively easy to visualize.
If there are still doubts, an additional CT examination is used. A magnetic resonance imaging can be used to determine how thick the cartilaginous cap is. In this way, the risk of degeneration of the tumor can be assessed. The attending physician also conducts a thorough differential diagnosis in order to exclude diseases with similar signs. He primarily examines whether the affected patient suffers from a so-called familial osteochondromatosis.
Benign bone tumors such as an osteochondroma can also result in complications. The people affected often suffer from the fear that the benign tumor will degenerate into a malignant cancer with life-threatening consequences. As a result, patients often show listlessness, mood swings or depression.
Another consequence of the osteochondroma is the displacement of neighboring blood vessels and tissue. Depending on the position of the benign tumor, this leads to feelings of constriction. There is also a risk that certain organs will lose their function. If the osteochondroma exerts pressure on adjacent nerves, vessels or muscles, this process results in an undersupply of the organs, which in turn triggers functional disorders.
In some cases, an osteochondroma has a limiting effect on the patient’s range of motion. Joint activities are limited or even completely impossible. The affected person can therefore only move to a limited extent or needs a walking aid.
Some patients suffer from psychological problems due to a benign bone tumor. Because movement is restricted, this often leads to weight gain, which in turn puts stress on the bones. There is also greater stress on the healthy skeletal system. The consequences of this are overexertion or problems with nerves and muscles.
If an osteochondroma is treated surgically, further complications are possible. This usually involves damage to adjacent structures, bleeding, bruising, wound healing disorders or infections.
When should you go to the doctor?
Excessive bone growth must always be clarified by a doctor. Anyone who notices bone pain or poor posture may be suffering from an osteochondroma, which must be medically diagnosed and treated. If other signs such as fever or unusual cardiovascular problems, hormonal changes or disorders of the immune system are noticed, the family doctor should be consulted. Affected persons can also turn to the orthopedist or a specialist in internal medicine. People who have already suffered from cancer are particularly at risk.
Risk factors such as working in a contaminated area or contact with carcinogenic substances must also be clarified. Older people over the age of 40 should regularly take advantage of cancer screening. It is also advisable to go to the doctor at first suspicion. If the osteochondroma is detected early, treatment is promising. An untreated bone tumor, on the other hand, can spread and, in the worst case, be fatal. Treatment involves surgeons, physiotherapists, orthopedists and general practitioners. Depending on the symptoms, other specialists can be consulted, for example the oncologist or the phlebologist.
Treatment & Therapy
The therapeutic measures depend mainly on the symptoms and the size of the osteochondroma. Treatment of benign bone tumors is not necessary in all cases. However, if the affected patients suffer from unpleasant symptoms, the osteochondroma is usually removed. The resection is performed as part of a surgical procedure.
Such a removal is indicated especially when the person suffers from pain, malformations of nearby bone areas develop or the function of the joints is impaired by the osteochondroma. The osteochondroma should be removed as quickly as possible, especially if malignant degeneration is suspected. A resection is usually recommended, particularly in the case of osteochondromas in the area of the spine, upper arm and thigh as well as the pelvic bone.
Because potential degeneration of the osteochondroma may be accompanied by considerable complications. In principle, however, the prognosis for osteochondroma is comparatively good. In most cases, the osteochondroma stops growing after bone growth stops during puberty. If the osteochondroma maintains its size, malignant transformation is very rare.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of an osteochondroma is generally favorable. It is a benign tumor that causes various symptoms, but does not result in a reduction in average life expectancy. However, medical treatment is a prerequisite for a good view. In the further course, good follow-up care should also take place.
The resulting tumors are usually completely removed in a surgical procedure. If the operation proceeds without further complications, the patient can usually be discharged from the treatment as recovered after the wound has healed. In order to be able to diagnose future changes and abnormalities at an early stage, regular check-ups should take place over the entire lifespan. In many patients, an increased risk of developing a mental illness can be documented due to the emotional burden of the disease. This must be taken into account when making the overall prognosis.
Even after a full recovery, relapse can occur. Osteochondroma can develop again at any time. However, the prognosis remains favorable in these cases if cooperation with a doctor is sought at an early stage. Without treatment, growths and thus impairment of mobility are to be expected. The resulting tumors increase in size. In addition, the probability of additional changes in the tissue is increased.
There are no measures for the prevention of osteochondromas whose effectiveness has been proven in the context of corresponding medical research studies. Instead, the regular medical check-up of the tumors on the bones and a possible removal of the osteochondroma are in the foreground.
In the case of an osteochondroma, the aftercare measures are usually significantly limited. In some cases, they are not even available to those affected, this is the case if the tumor was only recognized very late and the chances of recovery are very slim. Therefore, those affected should ideally consult a doctor at the first signs and symptoms of the disease so that complications or other symptoms do not arise in the further course.
The sooner a doctor is consulted, the better the further course. In most cases, the tumor can be removed by surgery. Those affected should rest after the procedure and take care of their bodies. Efforts or stressful and physical activities should be avoided in order not to unnecessarily burden the body.
Regular checks and examinations by a doctor are also very important after the successful removal of the tumor in order to identify and remove further tumors at an early stage. The further course of the osteochondroma is strongly dependent on the time of diagnosis, so that a general course cannot be predicted. Under certain circumstances, however, this disease also reduces the life expectancy of those affected.
You can do that yourself
When an osteochondroma is diagnosed, it initially means a great shock for the patient. A tumor disease brings with it fears and changes in life that should be dealt with therapeutically.
Treatment also includes a change in diet. In order to compensate for the weight loss that accompanies the therapy, a lot of vegetables, cheese, yoghurt, quark and fish should be consumed. Meat and sausage should be avoided, as the high content of arachidonic acid can weaken the immune system and promote inflammation. If you have a loss of appetite, you can get high-calorie liquid food from the pharmacyat. Moderate exercise is recommended, with the localization of the osteochondroma being decisive. If the arms or legs are affected, only certain sports may be practiced. Otherwise, you may experience pain and other discomfort. Patients should consult the responsible medical specialists regarding diet and exercise in order to receive the optimal treatment.
After an operation, the usual aftercare measures apply. Patients should initially take it easy and make sure that the surgical wound heals without complications. If there are any problems, the doctor must be informed.