Osteochondroma is a benign tumor that grows slowly and usually begins near the ends of long bones. It may be identified at any age, though it universally develops during childhood as the bone grows. Once the child stops growing, the osteochondroma is also stops growing, but remains in place. Because this tumor is benign, it usually does not pose a significant risk or concern, and can usually be left untreated. It is a disease that is thought to affect approximately 1-2% of the human population, though many are undiagnosed, meaning that the true prevalence may be even greater.
The most common time for diagnosis of an osteochondroma is in children who have had, or who are going through, large growth spurts. For unknown reasons, it is usually more prominent in males. Females who have this disease tend to contract it slightly earlier, due to earlier adolescence. This tumor consists of a stalk of bone growing away from the nearby growth plate, and is covered by a thin cap of cartilage. On occasion, the osteochondroma can become painful, may fracture, or may press upon nerves or tendons. Rarely, an osteochondroma may transform into a malignancy such as chondrosarcoma, which generally manifests as growth or discomfort after reaching adulthood.
Anatomy of the Bone
The bone is a complex part of the human body. It consists of the following:
Bones do more than simply shape the body and act to help stabilize it during motion. At the ends of bone are growth plates, known as physes. The majority of the growth in bone length comes from these physes. The formation of an osteochondroma Is thought to result from an abnormality associated with the physis development during growth.
Types of Osteochondroma
Osteochodroma can be divided into two main categories:
Causes of Osteochondroma
There are many causes of osteochondroma. While nearly all cases occur in children, there are a variety of reasons why these tumors form:
Symptoms of Osteochondroma
Usually, the symptoms of osteochondroma are fairly minor, and in many cases the child does not experience any at all. However, because of the small risk of an osteochondroma turning malignant, it is always a good idea to visit a physician for examination.
The following are common osteochondroma symptoms. Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different and may experience only some or none of these:
Osteochondroma symptoms are typically only felt if the tumor is pressing against another structure, such as a nerve or a tendon. Otherwise, the biggest sign is a small painless mass. In any case, it is always important to see a doctor to ensure the tumor is benign.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Trauma Services in New York treats osteochondroma as well as a broad range of conditions that affect the bones within the body.