Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research ®

A Publication of The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons ®

What Happens to the Articular Surface After Curettage for Epiphyseal Chondroblastoma? A Report on Functional Results, Arthritis, and Arthroplasty

Germán L. Farfalli MD, Pablo A. I. Slullitel MD, D. Luis Muscolo MD, Miguel A. Ayerza MD, Luis A. Aponte-Tinao MD



Chondroblastoma is an uncommon, benign, but locally aggressive bone tumor that occurs in the apophyses or epiphyses of long bones, primarily in young patients. Although some are treated with large resections, aggressive curettage and bone grafting are more commonly performed to preserve the involved joint. Such intralesional resection may result in damage to the growth plate and articular cartilage, which can result in painful arthritis. Prior studies have focused primarily on oncologic outcomes rather than long-term joint status and functional outcomes.


(1) What local complications can be expected after aggressive intralesional curettage of epiphyseal chondroblastoma? (2) What is the joint survival of a joint treated in this way for chondroblastoma? (3) What additional procedures are used in treating symptomatic joint osteoarthritis after treatment of the chondroblastoma? (4) What are the functional outcomes in this group of patients?


A retrospective study of our prospectively collected database between 1975 and 2013 was done. We found 64 patients with a diagnosis of chondroblastoma of bone. After applying our selection criteria, 53 patients were involved in this study. We excluded seven patients with tumors initially treated with en bloc resection (five located in the extremities and two in the axial skeleton) and two patients with apophyseal tumors. One patient who underwent nonsurgical treatment and one patient lost to followup were also excluded. The mean age was 18 years (range, 11–39 years); the minimum followup was 2 years with a mean followup 77 months (range, 24–213 months). We analyzed all patients with a diagnosis of epiphyseal chondroblastoma of the limb treated with aggressive curettage and joint preservation surgery. During the period in question, our general indications for curettage were patients with active, painful tumors and those with more aggressive ones that remained intracompartmental, whereas initial wide en bloc resection was indicated in patients who had tumors with an extracompartmental extension breaching the adjacent joint cartilage and massive articular destruction. The tumor location was the distal femur in 14 patients, proximal tibia in 11, proximal humerus in 10, proximal femur in eight, the talus in seven, and elsewhere in the lower extremity in three. Local complications including joint degeneration and tumor recurrence were evaluated. Based on radiographic analysis, secondary osteoarthritis was classified by using the Kellgren-Lawrence grading system from Grade 0 to Grade IV. Patients who underwent joint replacement resulting from advanced symptomatic osteoarthritis were considered to have had joint failure for purposes of survivorship analysis, which was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Functional results were evaluated with the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society functional score by the treating surgeon, who transcribed the results on the digital records every 6 months of followup.


Twenty-two patients (42%) developed 26 local complications. The most common local complication was osteoarthritis in 20 patients (77% [20 of 26 complications]); tumor recurrence was observed in four patients; an intraarticular fracture and superficial infection treated with surgical débridement and antibiotics developed in one patient each. Joint survival was 90% at 5 years (95% confidence interval [CI], 76%–100%) and 74% at 10 years (95% CI, 48%–100%). Proximal femoral tumor location was associated with lower survivorship of the joint than other locations showing a 5-year survival rate of 44% (95% CI, 0%–88%; p = 0.000). Of the 20 patients with osteoarthritis, four were symptomatic enough to undergo joint replacement, all of which were for tumors in the proximal femur. The mean Musculoskeletal Tumor Society functional score was 28 of 30 points (93%).


Osteoarthritis was a frequent complication of aggressive curettage of epiphyseal chondroblastoma, and tumors located in the proximal femur appeared to be at particular risk of secondary osteoarthritis and prosthetic replacement. Because chondroblastoma is a tumor that disproportionately affects younger patients, the patient and surgeon should be aware that arthroplasty at a young age is a potential outcome for treatment of proximal femoral chondroblastomas.

Level of Evidence

Level III, therapeutic study. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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