Enchondromas are tumors that arise from cartilage, the tissue from which most bones develop. Enchondromas usually affect the bones of the hands and feet and sometimes the long bones of the limbs. They are mostly noncancerous and rarely need treatment. Children above the age of ten and teenagers are commonly affected.
The exact cause of these tumors is not very clear, but is thought to occur when cells form cartilage instead of bone. Enchondromas usually occur as a single tumor, but in certain rare conditions such as Ollier’s disease and Malfucci syndrome, multiple enchondromas may develop.
Symptoms are rarely produced and enchondromas often go unnoticed until discovered on a routine physical exam or an X-ray of the hand. When symptoms do occur, your child may experience some pain in the hand, overgrowth of a finger or a fracture due to weakening of the bone.
When you present to the clinic with the above symptoms, your child’s doctor will perform a physical examination and order imaging studies such as X-ray, CT scan and bone scan. A sample of bone (biopsy) may be obtained for examination in the laboratory. This helps identify an enchondroma and grade its severity.
An asymptomatic enchondroma usually requires no treatment. Your doctor will monitor it periodically with X-rays and other tests to identify changes. Curettage is usually performed to treat symptomatic enchondromas. It is a surgical procedure that involves scraping the tumor out of the bone with an instrument. In case of a fracture, the bone is allowed to heal before attempting treatment. Bone graft may be used to reinforce the bone after the tumor is removed. Once removed, enchondromas rarely return.