An enchondroma is a type of benign (non-cancerous) bone tumor that originates from cartilage. Cartilage is the specialized, gristly connective tissue that is present in adults and the tissue from which most bones develop. Cartilage plays an important role in the growth process. There are many different types of cartilage throughout the body. An enchondroma most often affects the cartilage that lines the inside of the bones. The bones most often involved with this benign tumor are the miniature long bones of the hands and feet. It may, however, also involve other bones such as the femur (thighbone), humerus (upper arm bone), or tibia (one of the two lower leg bones).
Enchondromas are the most common type of hand tumor. While it may affect an individual at any age, it is most common between the ages of 10 and 20 years. The occurrence between males and females is equal.
While the exact cause of enchondroma is not known, it is believed to occur either as an overgrowth of the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones, or as a persistent growth of original, embryonic cartilage.
An enchondroma may occur as an individual tumor or several tumors. The conditions that involve multiple lesions include the following:
Individuals with an enchondroma often have no symptoms at all. The following are the most common symptoms of an enchondroma. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of enchondroma may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Because an individual with an enchondroma has few symptoms, diagnosis is sometimes made during a routine physical examination, or if the presence of the tumor leads to a fracture in the hand.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for enchondroma may include the following:
Specific treatment for enchondroma will be determined by your physician based on:
Treatment may include:
If there is no sign of bone weakening or growth of the tumor, only observation may be suggested. However, follow-up with repeat x-rays may be necessary. Some types of enchondromas can develop into malignant, or cancerous, bone tumors later. Careful follow-up with a physician is often recommended.
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