Maffucci Syndrome 

Updated: Jun 07, 2017
Author: Stephanie Juliet Campbell, DO; Chief Editor: William D James, MD 



Maffucci syndrome is characterized by enchondromas with venous malformations with or without spindle cell hemangiomas. It was first reported by Maffucci in 1881 after a 40-year-old woman died from complications following amputation of an arm. The patient had frequent and severe hemorrhage from a vascular tumor for which she was admitted to the hospital. In view of the profuse bleeding, an amputation was performed and the patient died from infection. Maffucci reported a thorough autopsy that described all the main points of the syndrome named after him. In 1941, Carleton et al proposed the eponym Maffucci syndrome.

Maffucci syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects both males and females. It is associated with heterozygous somatic mutations in the isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2 (IDH1/IDH2) genes.[1, 2] Maffucci syndrome is characterized by benign enlargements of cartilage (enchondromas), bone deformities, and venous malformations. No racial or sexual predilection is apparent in Maffucci syndrome. No familial pattern of inheritance has been shown. Maffucci syndrome manifests early in life, usually around age 4-5 years, with 25% of cases being congenital. Patients apparently are of average intelligence, and no associated mental or psychiatric abnormalities seem to be present. About 160 cases of Maffucci syndrome have been published in the English literature.[3, 4, 5, 1] Note the image below.

Characteristic venous malformations on the patient Characteristic venous malformations on the patient's right upper extremity. These vascular malformations are benign and asymptomatic.


Maffucci syndrome affects the skin and the skeletal systems. Superficial and deep vascular lesions (venous malformations) often protrude as soft nodules or tumors, usually on the distal extremities, but they can appear anywhere. They can be bilateral or unilateral, but they usually are asymmetric. Venous-lymphatic malformations and hemangioendotheliomas can occur but are much less common.[6, 7, 8, 9] Enchondromas are benign cartilaginous tumors with the potential for malignant transformation. They can appear anywhere, but they usually are found on the phalanges and the long bones. These bone abnormalities usually are asymmetric and can cause secondary fractures. Approximately 30-37% of enchondromas develop into a chondrosarcoma.

The venous malformations in Maffucci syndrome manifest as blue subcutaneous nodules that can be emptied by pressure. Thrombi often form within vessels and develop into phleboliths. Under microscopic examination, these phleboliths appear as calcified vessels.

Enchondromas develop from the mesodermal dysplasia associated with Maffucci syndrome. As the bones grow, some cartilage material is left behind and grows irregularly, developing into the characteristic bone deformities. Bone irregularities in Maffucci syndrome include shortened length of the long bones, unequal leg length, pathologic fractures, and malunion of fractures.[10]

In Maffucci syndrome, neoplastic changes occur in enchondromas. Chondrosarcoma is the most common neoplasm in this syndrome, affecting about 30% of patients. The average age for neoplastic change in Maffucci syndrome patients is 40 years. Vascular neoplasms have occurred in 4 reported cases: 2 hemangiosarcomas and 2 lymphangiosarcomas. Other malignancies associated with Maffucci syndrome include pancreatic and hepatic adenocarcinoma, ovarian tumors, brain gliomas, astrocytomas, and other types of sarcomas.[5]



United States

Maffucci syndrome is rare. Fewer than 100 cases of Maffucci syndrome have been reported in the United States.


Maffucci syndrome is rare, with about 160 total case reports in the English literature.


No increased frequency of Maffucci syndrome occurs because of race.


Maffucci syndrome appears to be sporadically inherited. No sexual bias is present.


Lesions of Maffucci syndrome are first noted usually by age 4-5 years.


Patients with Maffucci syndrome usually lead reasonably normal lives with a normal life expectancy if no malignant transformation occurs.

Although the skeletal malformations can sometimes be crippling, patients have managed to perform activities of daily living rather well.

Patient Education

Patients can get further information from the following source: The National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc (NORD), PO Box 1968, 55 Kenosia Avenue, Danbury, CT 06813-1968, (203) 744-0100 or (800) 999-6673. Contact NORD by e-mail at




Parents of a child with Maffucci syndrome first notice soft, blue-colored growths on the distal aspects of the extremities. Patients with Maffucci syndrome are usually short in stature and may have unequal arm or leg lengths due to the bone abnormalities.

Physical Examination

In Maffucci syndrome, venous malformations have also been reported in extracutaneous sites such as the leptomeninges, eyes, respiratory tract, and GI tract. The cutaneous vascular malformations may also be present on mucosal surfaces. The lesions typically are compressible, soft, red-blue papules and nodules.[2]

Enchondromas usually are found in the hands (89%), but they can be found on, although not limited to, the foot, tibia, fibula, femur, humerus, ribs, and skull. The tumors appear as nodular outgrowths and can cause a fracture, leading to further complications, such as shortened or unequal length limbs. Patients who are severely affected can have difficulty walking and manually manipulating objects. Note the images below. 

Enchondroma on the left elbow. Enchondroma on the left elbow.
Venous malformations on a patient's right hand. Venous malformations on a patient's right hand.


Maffucci syndrome has no familial pattern of inheritance and appears sporadically. It has been shown to be associated with heterozygous somatic mutations in the isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2 (IDH1/IDH2) genes.[1, 2]


Neoplastic changes occur in enchondromas. Chondrosarcoma is the most common neoplasm in this syndrome, affecting about 30% of patients (see Pathophysiology).

Enchondromas can cause a fracture, leading to further complications, such as shortened or unequal length limbs.



Differential Diagnoses



Approach Considerations

The lead physician must conduct regular physical examinations and monitor for any changes that may suggest the development of chondrosarcomas, the most common neoplasm in this syndrome.

Radiologic evaluation of suspicious areas should be conducted. Evidence of malignant transformation includes cortical destruction, endosteal cortical erosion, and zones of lucency within a previously mineralized area. Note the image below.

Radiograph of a patient's hands showing enchondrom Radiograph of a patient's hands showing enchondromas and phleboliths. Areas of translucency represent enchondromas, and opaque spots represent phleboliths.

A biopsy should then be performed on suspicious radiologic areas. Needle biopsy should provide a diagnosis. Bone biopsy may be needed if the enchondroma is undergoing any changes.

CT and/or MRI can help in the evaluation of the lesion and its surrounding soft tissue.

Chondrosarcomas, the most common malignant neoplasm associated with Maffucci syndrome, are diagnosed by poorly differentiated pleomorphic chondrocytes.[11, 12]

Also see Enchondroma and Enchondromatosis.



Approach Considerations

No medical care is needed in Maffucci syndrome patients who are asymptomatic. Patients do need careful follow-up care to evaluate any changes in the skin and bone lesions. The managing physician should arrange the proper consultations for the treatment of the patient.

Management of venous malformations may be more conservative or more aggressive depending on the individual's symptoms and the severity of the lesions. The location of the lesions, number of lesions, recurrences, progression of the lesions, and potential complications all are important factors to consider in treating venous malformations.

Symptomatic patients may benefit from anticoagulation, compression dressings, or sclerotherapy.[13] Some case reports have described antiangiogenic therapies, such as rapamycin injections, in the oncology literature, with varied success.[14, 15]

Nd:Yag laser treatment has also been reported to effectively treat venous malformations[16] and may be efficacious for small, superficial lesions.[17]

Consider surgical excision in patients with symptomatic venous malformations in whom more conservative approaches have failed.


The following consultations may be helpful:

  • Radiologist: Radiography or CT scanning should be periodically performed to evaluate bone changes.

  • Orthopedic surgeon: An orthopedic surgeon should be consulted to evaluate bone changes and skeletal neoplasms and to help in treating fractures associated with this disease.

  • Dermatologist: A dermatologist should be consulted to help evaluate venous malformations associated with this syndrome and to discover any new lesions on the skin.


Physical activity is not limited for Maffucci syndrome. Some patients may have difficulty ambulating because of the bone abnormalities.

Long-Term Monitoring

Regular physical examinations are required in Maffucci syndrome patients to evaluate new or changing skin and bone abnormalities.