What Is Osteochondroma? - Definition, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Virginia Rawls

Virginia has a master' degree in Education and a bachelors in Sports Medicine/athletic Training

Osteochondroma is a condition where a non-cancerous tumor grows from your bone tissue. These bone growths are typically found in pediatric patients. This lesson will discuss exactly what osteochondroma is, its symptoms, and treatment options available to patients who have this condition.

What is Osteochondroma?

Jason is a healthy 5-year-old boy who is getting ready to enter kindergarten. Before he goes to school he needs a physical. During his visit the pediatrician does an exam that includes checking to determine if all of his joints (knees, hips, ankles, elbows, shoulders) are moving properly. When the doctor puts his hand on Jason's right knee he feels a knot. He asks Jason if it hurts during the day, if he has fallen on it, or if it hurts when he touches it. Jason answers 'no' to all of these questions. The pediatrician recommends that Jason visit a children's hospital and get an x-ray. The x-ray shows that a small bone tumor is growing from Jason's femur. Jason is scheduled to have a surgical biopsy of the tumor at the children's hospital. When the results come back they show that the tumor is not cancerous. Jason is diagnosed with osteochondroma.

The word 'tumor' can be a very scary word to hear. Fortunately, not all tumors are cancerous. Osteochondroma is the most common type of non-cancerous bone tumors.

Osteochondroma means 'benign tumor of the bone'. You might also find journal articles and textbooks using the term extosis, which is the same thing. There are two categories of tumors that can be found in the human body. Malignant tumors are tumors that contain cancer cells, while benign tumors do not contain cancer cells.

Osteochondromas are mainly found around the growth plate of developing bones. When we are born, our bones are not really bones, they are cartilage. As we grow, our growth plates allows our bones to get longer. Since the osteochondroma is near the growth plate, it also get larger as the bone grows. When our bones begin to change from cartilage to actual bone tissue, these tumors also begin to change over to bone tissue.

Osteochondroma is usually identified and diagnosed in pediatric patients. The only way to truly diagnose these tumors is to have an x-ray, MRI, CT scan, or radioisotope bone scan done to visualize the tumor. Once a tumor is identified, then it will need to be biopsied to determine if it is cancerous or not.

Two different types of osteochondromas exist. With a solitary osteochondroma there is only one diagnosed tumor. In multiple osteochondroma two or more tumors are found in the same patient. These different types of osteochondromas can be seen in the images below:

Image showing a single bone tumor
bone tumor

Image showing multiple bone tumors
multiple bone tumors

Symptoms and Treatments

Fortunately, most osteochondromas do not cause any sort of problem for the patient. Many are caught by doctors during routine physicals, by the patient, or by a patient's caregiver. However, there are some exceptions; patients might experience pain, bone deformity, or difficulty moving a joint near where the tumor is located.

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