Enchondroma is a relatively common yet benign tumor consisting of cartilage that appears inside the bone. An enchondroma commonly appears in the short tubular bones of the hands and feet. It also can be found in larger long bones, such as the humerus, femur and tibia. The majority of patients have no symptoms or difficulties related to the tumor, so most tumors are diagnosed as an incidental finding on imaging studies done for unrelated conditions. Because so many cases go undiagnosed, it is difficult to determine exactly how common enchondromas are.
While an enchondroma is most commonly seen in people between the ages of 10 and 20, it is not unusual to see it in others as well. Both males and females are equally affected by this type of bone tumor. In less than one percent of all cases these tumors transform into a malignant chondrosarcoma. Many cases go untreated and even undiagnosed because the tumor is so benign in nature. However, at the onset of any aggressive signs, surgical removal may be recommended. On occasion, an enchondroma may weaken the bone to a degree that necessitates removal and fixation to prevent a fracture.
There are few known causes of enchondroma. While this disease is still being researched, there are a few findings that can give some insight into what causes enchondroma. Many researchers believe that the sole cause of enchondroma lies in the genetic makeup of the person who has it. While this disease is not inherited, it is thought to be a malfunction of the genes for cartilage growth and development.
Enchondroma is benign by nature, but can develop in various states:
- Solitary enchondroma – This is the most common form of enchondroma, and affects people at such a mild level that many times it goes undetected. As the name states, solitary enchondroma affects a person in only one instance. It is rare to find multiple instances at the same site.
- Ollier’s disease – This is a form of enchondromatosis with a prevalence in about one out of every 100,000 people. This sporadic disorder results in multiple enchondromas forming throughout the skeleton. This is often accompanied by a disturbance in the growth of the long bones of the extremities. Nearly 30 percent of patients will develop a chondrosarcoma over their lifetime.
- Maffucci syndrome – Another form of enchondromatosis, where multiple enchondromas and multiple hemangiomas develop. This condition is closely related to Ollier’s disease, but carries a significantly greater risk of developing a chondrosarcoma.
The multidisciplinary team of musculoskeletal oncology experts at Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute treats enchondroma as well as a broad range of conditions that affect the bones.