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Synovial chondromatosis

  • Bone & Soft Tissue Tumors Program
    Learn more about our Bone & Soft Tissue Tumors Program, where we care for children with benign and malignant bone and soft tissue conditions.
  • 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.

  • Tests

    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.

  • While a diagnosis of synovial chondromatosis can be alarming, you can rest assured that this is a very treatable condition and the vast majority of children are cured with one or more surgeries.

    Your child's physician will determine a specific course of treatment based on several factors, including:

    • your child's age, overall health and medical history
    • the location of the affected joint
    • the risk of damage to the joint
    • whether the disease has recurred

    Traditional treatments for synovial chondromatosis

    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.

    Department of Orthopedics
    Learn more about our orthopedics program and our team of surgeons

    Coping and support

    When your child has a condition like synovial chondromatosis, your family is dealing with many different concerns and worries. Not only are you focused on meeting all of your child's medical needs; you are also grappling with a significant emotional and psychological toll.

    In addition to the clinical information offered on this page, Children's has several other resources designed to give your family comfort, support and guidance.

    Children's Center for Families is dedicated to helping families locate the information and resources they need to better understand their child's particular condition and take part in their care. All patients, families and health professionals are welcome to use the Center's services at no extra cost. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please call 617-355-6279 for more information.?

    The hospital's Complex Care Services provides care for children with complex medical conditions in both inpatient and outpatient settings. CCS partners with the child's family, primary care physician and treatment team specialists to ensure comprehensive, coordinated and centralized medical care. Please call 617-355-6162 for more information.?

    Children's Behavioral Medicine Clinic homepage helps children who are being treated on an outpatient basis at the hospital—as well as their families—understand and cope with their feelings about:

    • being sick
    • facing uncomfortable procedures
    • handling pain
    • taking medication
    • preparing for surgery
    • changes in friendships and family relationships
    • managing school while dealing with an illness

    Call 617-355-6688 to learn more. ?

    The Experience Journal was designed by Children's psychiatrist-in-chief, David DeMaso, MD, and members of his team. This online collection features thoughts, reflections and advice from kids and caregivers about living with a variety of medical conditions, the “befores” and “afters” of surgery and going through many other medical experiences.?

    Children's Psychiatry Consultation Service provides several services, including:

    • short-term therapy for children admitted to one of the hospital's inpatient units
    • parent and sibling consultations
    • teaching healthy coping skills for the whole family
    • educating members of the medical treatment team about the relationship between physical illness and psychological distress

    The Psychiatry Consultation Service works with children who have been admitted to the hospital—and their family members—and operates on a referral basis. If you are interested in setting up an appointment, please speak to your child's treating clinician.

    The Children's chaplaincy is a source of spiritual support for parents and family members. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy members—representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions—who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your child's treatment.

    Children's International Center is a resource for patients and families from countries outside the United States. The center can provide assistance with everything from reviewing medical records to setting up appointments and locating lodging. Contact the center by phone at 01-617-355-5209 or via e-mail at  international.center@childrens.harvard.edu.

    On our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:

    • getting to Children's
    • accommodations
    • navigating the hospital experience
    • resources that are available for your family
    General guide for new patients
    View an assortment of helpful information for Children's patients and their families.

     

    Create a Carepage
    Keep family and friends up to date during your child's treatment by creating a free Children's Carepage

     

    Visit our Integrative Therapies Team

    Find out about their services for hospitalized children, their families and their caregivers, including:
    massage therapy
    acupuncture
    yoga
    therapeutic touch

  • Research & Innovation

    RESEARCH AND INNOVATION

    At Boston Children's Hospital, our care is informed by our research. We have a long history of research and innovation in pediatric orthopedics.

    Children’s is a world leader in opening new avenues of “translational research,” bringing laboratory advances to the bedside and doctor's office as quickly as possible. All of our senior medical staff members of the Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors Program participate in clinical research activities. Our program director, Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, MD, is also the co-director of our new Clinical and Translational Investigation Program, which aims to dramatically improve translational research in pediatric hematology and oncology.

    In addition to a variety of clinical trials, Children’s also conducts extensive laboratory research to identify new treatments and improve therapies for children with bone and soft tissue tumors.

    For more information about current research, visit our Bone & Soft Tissue Tumor Program page.

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