Synovial chondromatosis Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

We understand that you may have a lot of questions when your child is diagnosed with synovial chondromatosis.

  • What exactly is it?
  • What are potential complications in my child’s case?
  • What are the treatments?
  • What are possible side effects from treatment?
  • How will it affect my child long term?

We’ve provided some answers to those questions here, and when you meet with our experts, we can explain your child’s condition and treatment options fully.

What is synovial chondromatosis?
Synovial chondromatosis is a benign tumor of the soft tissues, usually occurring around the joints. It causes the lining of a joint to produce small pieces of cartilage that become loose, and sometimes these pieces of cartilage can turn into bone. The condition usually occurs in the knee, but can arise in any joint in the body. Fortunately, the condition tends to be non-aggressive, and sometimes goes away on its own.

Is synovial chondromatosis common?
Synovial chondromatosis is less common in children than adults. It usually affects people ages 20 to 50.

Why is synovial chondromatosis a problem?
Synovial chondromatosis can result in pain, stiffness and loss of motion in the affected joint. Without treatment, synovial chondromatosis can limit your child’s activity and sometimes lead to joint damage.

Will my child need chemotherapy or radiation?
No, synovial chondromatosis is a benign condition and does not require chemotherapy or radiation. Most of the time, surgery will cure it completely.

What does surgery involve?
Should your child need surgery to remove the abnormal tissue, the typical treatment is an operation called a synovectomy, in which the loose bodies of cartilage are removed. The condition may recur as the synovial lining re-grows, and if it does, your child may need a second surgery.

Your child may need physical therapy after surgery to preserve normal functioning of the affected joint.

Causes?

What causes synovial chondromatosis?
The cause of synovial chondromatosis is unknown. However:

Some research suggests that trauma is a factor, given that the condition occurs primarily in weight bearing joints.
Infection is another possible cause.
It can sometimes develop as a result of osteoarthritis.

Signs and symptoms?
While symptoms may vary child-to-child, the most common ones include:

  • mild pain or discomfort
  • minimal loss of motion
  • locking of the joint

It’s important to understand that the symptoms of synovial chondromatosis may resemble other medical problems, some of them which are very common and easy to treat, others which could be more serious. The symptoms listed above are common symptoms of the disease, but do not include all possible symptoms.

Your child may experience symptoms differently. Therefore, it is important to be evaluated by a physician to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Always consult your child's physician if you have concerns.

Questions to ask your doctor

What does a diagnosis of a synovial chondromatosis mean for my child?
How will you manage my child’s symptoms?
Will my child need surgery?
What are the possible short and long-term complications of treatment?
Will my child be OK?
How likely is it that the synovial chondromatosis will come back?
What services are available to help my child and my family cope?

FAQ

Q: How serious is synovial chondromatosis?
A: Fortunately, synovial chondromatosis is a benign (non-cancerous) condition. It affects the synovial membrane, a type of tissue that lines joints. Sometimes, the condition goes away on its own. Other children need one or more surgeries to remove the abnormal tissue.

Q: Will my child be OK?
A: Children with a synovial chondromatosis usually have very good long-term health, although the condition can sometimes come back after treatment. In most cases, children can be cured with an operation known as a synovectomy, in which a surgeon removes the loose pieces of cartilage and the abnormal synovial tissue. Sometimes, a second operation is necessary if the condition returns.

Q: Why is synovial chondromatosis a problem?
A: Synovial chondromatosis can result in pain, stiffness and loss of motion in the affected joint. Without treatment, synovial chondromatosis can limit your child’s activity and sometimes lead to joint damage.

Q: Where will my child be treated?
A: Children treated through the Bone & Soft Tissue Tumors Program receive inpatient (overnight) and outpatient (day) care at Children’s Hospital Boston. If your child needs surgery, he will see doctors in our Department of Orthopedics on the second floor of the Fegan building. Find out how to contact us.

Q: What services are available to help my child and my family cope?
A: We offer several support services to help you, your child and your whole family get through the challenges and stresses of dealing with your child’s illness.

Q: Will my child need chemotherapy or radiation?
A: No, synovial chondromatosis is a benign condition and does not require chemotherapy or radiation. Most of the time, surgery will cure it completely.

Diagnostics

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis.

How does my child’s doctor know that it’s synovial chondromatosis?
Your child’s physician may conduct one or more tests to determine whether your child has synovial chondromatosis. These may include a:

  • physical exam, including checking the function of the joint or limb
  • x-rays to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce detailed images of the joint
  • computerized tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) to capture a detailed view of the joint, in some cases

After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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