Chondroblastoma | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is chondroblastoma diagnosed?

Doctors use some combination of the following techniques to diagnose chondroblastoma:

What are the treatment options for chondroblastoma?

Specialists usually treat chondroblastoma with surgery. The tumor often occurs near a joint, making it a challenge to remove. 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 and size of the tumor (including whether a joint is involved)
  • the risk of fracture from bone weakness
  • whether the disease has recurred

Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important in minimizing any possibility of the tumor spreading. Continuous follow-up care is essential because chondroblastomas have up to a 20 percent chance of recurring after successful removal.

Surgical options

Treatment aimed at removing the tumor and preventing damage to the end of the affected bone usually involves a surgical procedure, such as:

  • curettage and bone grafting: This is the most common treatment for chondroblastomas. During this procedure, the tumor is scraped out of the bone with a special instrument called a curette that has a scoop, loop, or ring at its tip. The remaining cavity is usually filled with donor bone tissue (allograft), bone chips taken from another bone in the child's body (autograft). The graft takes two or three months to heal into the bone.
  • biopsy: During the operation, doctors will take a tissue sample of the tumor so that they can confirm the diagnosis under a microscope.
  • extended curettage: In some cases, our orthopedic surgeons perform an “extended” curettage using a special instrument to remove additional layers of cells around the chondroblastoma. This is done to reduce the risk of recurrence.
  • en bloc resection: Doctors may need to surgically remove bone containing the tumor if the tumor is located in the pelvis or certain other sites. They may insert pins and other hardware (internal fixation) to restore the structural integrity of the bone.

If the tumor is in a hard-to-reach location, doctors may prefer to perform this procedure, in which radio frequency waves pass through a probe to kill the tumor cells by heating them to a high temperature. This procedure has the benefits of being minimally invasive and requiring less recovery time.

Follow-up care

Chondroblastomas can return after treatment up to 20 percent of the time. To monitor the possibility of recurrence, we see children for follow-up care after surgery and treatment every three months for the first two years after treatment.

A typical follow-up visit may include:

  • a physical exam
  • x-rays
  • imaging scans

A recurrent chondroblastoma is usually treated using the same techniques described above, although your child's orthopedic surgeon may opt for a more aggressive treatment to prevent further recurrence.

What is the long-term outlook?

The long-term outlook for a child who's been treated for chondroblastoma depends in part on:

  • the extent of the disease
  • the presence or absence of metastasis to the lungs
  • the size and location of the tumor
  • the tumor's response to therapy
  • the age and overall health of your child
  • your child's tolerance for specific medication, procedures, or therapies

Generally, surgery usually successfully treats a chondroblastoma that is caught before metastasis (spreading). Prompt medical attention, aggressive therapy, and regular follow-up care are important for the best long-term outlook. With these, your child should be able to walk and run normally, and to engage in sports and physical activities.