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Osteochondroma

What is osteochondroma?

Osteochondroma is an overgrowth of cartilage and bone at the end of the bone near the growth plate. Most often, it affects the long bones in the leg, the pelvis, or the shoulder blade.

Osteochondroma is the most common noncancerous bone growth. It most often occurs between the ages of 10 and 30 years. It affects males and females equally.

What causes osteochondroma?

While the exact cause of osteochondroma is not known. There is a form that is inherited and a form that is not inherited.

What are the symptoms of osteochondroma?

These are the most common symptoms of osteochondroma:

  • A hard, mass that is painless and does not move
  • Lower-than-normal-height for age
  • Soreness of the nearby muscles
  • One leg or arm may be longer than the other
  • Pressure or irritation with exercise

Often, people with osteochondroma will have no symptoms at all.

When they do happen, symptoms of osteochondroma may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is osteochondroma diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your medical history and do a physical exam. Other tests include:  

  • X-ray. This test uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to make images of tissues, bones, and organs.
    • Computed tomography scan (also called CT or CAT scan). This test uses of X-rays and computer technology to make images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test uses large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures in the body.

How is osteochondroma treated?

Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment for osteochondromas varies depending on the size of the growth and your symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery to remove the mass
  • Medications to control pain

If there is no sign of bone weakening or increased overgrowth, your doctor may want to watch it over time. Careful follow-up with a doctor to monitor bone growth may be advised.

Key points about osteochondroma

Osteochondroma is an overgrowth of cartilage and bone at the end of the bone near the growth plate. It affects males and females equally.

  • Most most often, it affects the long bones in the leg, the pelvis, or shoulder blade.
  • The exact cause of osteochondroma is not known.
  • Symptoms may include:
    • A hard mass that is painless and does not move
    • Lower-than-normal-height for age
    • Soreness of the nearby muscles
    • One leg or arm may be longer than the other
    • Pressure or irritation with exercise
  • Treatment may include:
    • Surgery to remove the mass
    • Medications to control pain
  • Careful follow-up with a doctor to monitor bone growth may be advised.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.

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