Tenosynovial Giant Cell Tumors in Children: A Similar Entity Compared With Adults

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2018 Sep;476(9):1803-1812. doi: 10.1007/s11999.0000000000000102.


Background: Tenosynovial giant cell tumor (TGCT) is a rare, benign, monoarticular entity. Many case-series in adults are described, whereas TGCT is only incidentally reported in children. Therefore, its incidence rate and natural history in children are unknown.

Questions/purposes: (1) How many cases have been reported of this condition, and what were their characteristics? (2) What is the standardized pediatric incidence rate for TGCT? (3) Is there a clinical difference in TGCT between children and adults? (4) What is the risk of recurrence after open resection in children compared with adults?

Methods: Data were derived from three sources: (1) a systematic review on TGCT in children, seeking sources published between 1990 and 2016, included 17 heterogeneous, small case-series; (2) the nationwide TGCT incidence study: the Dutch pediatric incidence rate was extracted from this nationwide study by including patients younger than 18 years of age. This registry-based study, in which eligible patients with TGCT were clinically verified, calculated Dutch incidence rates for localized and diffuse-type TGCT in a 5-year timeframe. Standardized pediatric incidence rates were obtained by using the direct method; (3) from our nationwide bone and soft tissue tumor data registry, a clinical data set was derived. Fifty-seven children with histologically proven TGCT of large joints, diagnosed and treated between 1995 and 2015, in all four tertiary sarcoma centers in The Netherlands, were included. These clinically collected data were compared with a retrospective database of 423 adults with TGCT. Chi-square test and independent t-test were used to compare children and adults for TGCT type, sex, localization, symptoms before diagnosis, first treatment, recurrent disease, followup status, duration of symptoms, and time to followup. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to evaluate recurrence-free survival at 2.5 years.

Results: TGCT is seldom reported because only 76 pediatric patients (39 female), 29 localized, 38 diffuse, and nine unknown type, were identified from our systematic review. The standardized pediatric TGCT incidence rate of large joints was 2.42 and 1.09 per million person-years in localized and diffuse types, respectively. From our clinical data set, symptoms both in children and adults were swelling, pain, and limited ROM with a median time before diagnosis of 12 months (range, 1-72 months). With the numbers available, we did not observe differences in presentation between children and adults in terms of sex, symptoms before diagnosis, first treatment, recurrent disease, followup status, or median time to followup. The 2.5-year recurrence-free TGCT survival rate after open resection was not different with the numbers available between children and adults: 85% (95% confidence interval [CI], 67%-100%) versus 89% (95% CI, 83%-96%) in localized, respectively (p = 0.527) and 53% (95% CI, 35%-79%) versus 56% (95% CI, 49%-64%) in diffuse type, respectively (p = 0.691).

Conclusions: Although the incidence of pediatric TGCT is low, it should be considered in the differential diagnosis in children with chronic monoarticular joint effusions. Recurrent disease after surgical treatment of this orphan disease seems comparable between children and adults. With targeted therapies being developed, future research should define the most effective treatment strategies for this heterogeneous disease.

Level of evidence: Level III, therapeutic study.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Tendon Sheath / diagnostic imaging
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Tendon Sheath / epidemiology*
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Tendon Sheath / pathology
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Tendon Sheath / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Progression-Free Survival
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors