Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

A benign cartilaginous growth starting within the medullary cavity of a bone originally formed from cartilage; enchondromas may distend the cortex, especially of small bones, and may be solitary or multiple.

The exact cause of enchondroma is not known, it is believed to occur either as an overgrowth of the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones, or as a persistent growth of original, embryonic cartilage. An enchondroma may occur as an individual tumor or several tumors. The conditions that involve multiple lesions include the following:

    Ollier's disease - when multiple sites in the body develop the tumors.

  • Maffucci's syndrome - a combination of multiple tumors and angiomas (benign tumors made up of blood vessels). Some types of enchondromas can develop into malignant, or cancerous, bone tumors later. Careful follow-up with a physician may be recommended.

Often an enchondroma is seen incidentally on an x-ray taken for some other reason and the patient had not noticed any symptoms. In some cases the swelling weakens the bone and results in the bone breaking, often with very little force. In the rare case of many bones being affected at once function can be more severely affected.

There is a tiny chance of a single enchondroma becoming malignant (cancerous) overtime (only a few cases reported in literature so far) but this chance is increases when multiple bones are affected.

The cartilage swelling may also weaken the surrounding strong bone so increasing the chance of a break, sometimes with very little force. In the rare cases where many bones are involved function can be more severely affected. In single enchondromata there is a tiny chance of the swelling becoming malignant but this chance is increased when multiple bones are affected.


While it may affect an individual at any age, it is most common between the ages of 10 and 20 years. The occurrence between males and females is equal.


Most enchondromas do not cause any symptoms. However, some children may experience pain in the affected area if any, or a combination of, the following occur:

    The tumor becomes very large.

  • The tumor causes weakness of the affected bone, leading to a fracture.

  • The tumor causes abnormal growth of the affected area.


The following diagnostic tests are necessary to diagnose enchondromas:

    X-rays - A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - This test is particularly useful in identifying tumors in areas that are difficult to image on a plain x-ray.

  • CT/CAT scan - A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs.

  • Bone scan - A nuclear imaging method to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints, to detect bone diseases and tumors and to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.


Specific treatment for enchondroma is determined by a physician based on the age, overall health, and medical history of the patient. Other considerations include:

    Extent of the disease.

  • Tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies.

  • Expectations for the course of the disease.

  • Opinion or preference of the patient.

Treatment may include:

    Surgery (in some cases, when bone weakening is present or fractures occur).

  • Bone grafting - a surgical procedure in which healthy bone is transplanted from another part of the patient's body into the affected area.

  • If there is no sign of bone weakening or growth of the tumor, observation only may be suggested. However, follow-up with repeat x-rays may be necessary. Some types of enchondromas can develop into malignant, or cancerous, bone tumors later. Careful follow-up with a physician may be recommended.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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