Pathological fracture in paediatric bone tumours and tumour-like lesions: A predictor of benign lesions?

Br J Radiol. 2021 Sep 1;94(1125):20201341. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20201341. Epub 2021 Jul 28.


Objective: To determine the incidence and causes of pathological fractures in paediatric bone tumours and tumour-like lesions, and to determine if they are predictive of benign lesions.

Methods and materials: Retrospective review of children with suspected bone tumours referred to a specialist musculoskeletal oncology service between September 2019 and August 2020. Data recorded included patient age and gender, lesion location, the presence of a pathological fracture on the initial plain radiograph, and the final diagnosis made either by image-guided biopsy/curettage or based on typical imaging features.

Results: 231 patients were included with 233 lesions (138 males and 93 females with mean age 10.5 years, range 3 months-18 years). Final diagnosis was based on histology in 85 (36.5%) cases and imaging in 148 (63.5%) cases, 52 (22.3%) lesions classed as non-neoplastic, 139 (59.7%) as benign and 42 (18%) as malignant. Pathological fractures were seen in 41 cases (17.6%) at presentation, involving the humerus in 19 (46.3%), the femur in 14 (34.1%), the tibia in 3 (7.3%), the fibula and radius in two each (4.9%) and the second toe proximal phalanx in 1 (2.4%) (p < 0.001). The commonest underlying lesions included simple bone cyst (n = 17; 41.5%) and non-ossifying fibroma (n = 10; 24.4%). Only 4 cases (9.75%) were malignant, one case each of osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, leukaemia and BCOR undifferentiated round cell sarcoma. Pathological fracture occurred in 27.7% of non-malignant lesions and 9.5% of malignant lesions, this difference being statistically significant (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Pathological fractures were seen in 17.6% of paediatric bone tumours, tumour-like lesions, being significantly associated with humeral location and non-malignant diagnosis.

Advances in knowledge: Demonstrates the frequency, location and underlying diagnosis of pathological fractures in paediatric bone tumour and tumour-like lesions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / diagnostic imaging*
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image-Guided Biopsy
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Radiography / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies