What is osteochondroma?

Osteochondroma is a very common type of benign (non-cancerous) tumor in the bone. It is a hard mass that usually appears near a child’s growth plate at the end of the long bones, most often the bones around the knee, pelvis or upper arm.

Most of the time a child with osteochondroma will only have one tumor. But in some cases, a child can have multiple tumors. It is very unusual for an osteochondroma to become cancerous, but it can happen. For this reason, your child’s doctor may want to monitor the condition.

Osteochondromas do not spread past the bone that is affected, but the tumors can get larger as your child grows. Tumors typically stop growing once your child reaches their full height.

What are the signs and symptoms of osteochondroma?

Many children do not have any symptoms from an osteochondroma, and in many cases, it is never detected. If your child does have symptoms, they may include:

  • A hard mass under the skin, with or without pain
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness or soreness
  • An arm or leg that is longer than the other side
  • A shorter height than normal for their age

What causes osteochondroma?

There is not a known cause for osteochondroma in children. Some research suggests that they may be caused by genetic abnormalities, specifically in a child’s growth plate. However, this research is still ongoing.

How is osteochondroma treated?

Most children do not need treatment for osteochondroma unless it is causing pain or symptoms. Your child’s doctor may decide to leave the tumor alone and watch it as your child grows. Your care team at Arkansas Children’s is experienced in treating childhood osteochondroma and will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your child.

  • If the tumor is very large or if your child has pain, a bone fracture, restricted movement or nerve issues, the doctor may recommend surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the whole tumor. This is usually successful, however if the tumor is located close to blood vessels or nerves, the surgery can be more difficult.
  • Your child may take medicine to control pain if the doctor does not feel surgery is the best option. 

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