Extended intralesional curettage preferred over resection-arthrodesis for giant cell tumour of the distal radius

Eur J Orthop Surg Traumatol. 2020 Jan;30(1):11-17. doi: 10.1007/s00590-019-02496-2. Epub 2019 Jul 11.


Background: Distal radius giant cell tumour (GCT) is known to be associated with distinct management difficulties, including high rates of local recurrence and lung metastases compared to other anatomic locations. Multiple treatment options exist, each with different outcomes and complications.

Questions/purposes: To compare oncological and functional outcomes and complications following treatment of patients with distal radius GCT by extended intralesional curettage (EIC) or resection-arthrodesis.

Methods: Patients operated on for distal radius GCT were identified from prospectively collected databases at four Canadian musculoskeletal oncology specialty centres. There were 57 patients with a mean age of 35.4 years (range 17-57). Thirteen tumours were Campanacci grade 2, and 40 were Grade 3 (4 unknown). Twenty patients presented with an associated pathologic fracture. There were 34 patients treated by EIC and 23 by en bloc resection and wrist arthrodesis. All resections were performed for grade 3 tumours. The mean follow-up was 86 months (range 1-280).

Results: There were a total of 11 (19%) local recurrences: 10 of 34 (29%) in the EIC group compared to only 1 of 23 (4%) in the resection-arthrodesis group (p = 0.028). For the 10 patients with local recurrence following initial treatment by EIC, 7 underwent repeat EIC, while 3 required resection-arthrodesis. The one local recurrence following initial resection was managed with repeat resection-arthrodesis. Six of the 11 local recurrences followed treatment of Campanacci grade 3 tumours, while 4 were in grade 2 lesions and in one case of recurrence the grade was unknown. There were no post-operative complications after EIC, whereas 7 patients (30%) had post-operative complications following resection-arthrodesis including 4 infections, one malunion, one non-union and one fracture (p = 0.001). The mean post-operative Musculoskeletal Tumor Society score was 33.5 in the curettage group compared to 27 in the resection group (p = 0.001). The mean Toronto Extremity Salvage Score was 98.3% following curettage compared to 91.5% after resection (p = 0.006). No patients experienced lung metastasis or death.

Conclusions: EIC is an effective alternative to wide resection-arthrodesis following treatment of distal radius GCT, with the advantage of preserving the distal radius and wrist joint function, but with a higher risk of local recurrence. Most local recurrences following initial treatment by EIC could be managed with iterative curettage and joint preservation. Wide excision and arthrodesis were associated with a significantly lower risk of tumour recurrence but was technically challenging and associated with more frequent post-operative complications. EIC was associated with better functional scores. Resection should be reserved for the most severe grade 3 tumours and recurrent and complex cases not amenable to treatment with EIC and joint salvage.

Level of evidence: III, retrospective comparative trial.

Keywords: Benign bone tumor; Curettage; Giant cell tumor; Radius; Wrist arthrodesis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arthrodesis / methods*
  • Bone Neoplasms / mortality
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Canada
  • Curettage / methods*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Bone / mortality
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Bone / pathology
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Bone / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / mortality
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Radius / pathology
  • Radius / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wrist Joint / pathology
  • Wrist Joint / surgery
  • Young Adult