Giant Cell Tumor of Tendon Sheath Treatment & Management

Updated: Jul 07, 2016
  • Author: James R Verheyden, MD; Chief Editor: Harris Gellman, MD  more...
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Treatment

Surgical Therapy

Marginal excision of giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath is the treatment of choice (see the images below). A patient's poor medical health and the presence of life-threatening illnesses are contraindications to the surgical resection of these tumors.

An 11-year-old girl presented with this firm nonfl An 11-year-old girl presented with this firm nonfluctuant mass over her posterior medial left ankle that had been present for 5 months and had not increased in size. The mass was not transilluminating. Findings on frozen section were consistent with a benign giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath. The mass was marginally excised.
Giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath after margin Giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath after marginal excision from an 11-year-old girl who presented with a firm nonfluctuant mass over her posterior medial left ankle that had been present for 5 months and had not increased in size.

The tumor may involve the tendon sheath, volar plate, capsular ligaments, and joints. Dorsal sites frequently involve the joints or tendinous attachments to bone. Volar sites are more frequently present near the joints, presumably because the fibrous flexor-tendon sheath is thinner at the level of the joints. In a review of 115 cases, 20% had extra-articular joint involvement. In the digits, these tumors are often intimately associated with the flexor or extensor tendon. If no intimate association exists, a stalk of tissue often connects the tumor to the tendon sheath. If the mass is relatively large, smaller satellite lesions extending into the surrounding tendon sheath and synovium may be found.

Because the mass is frequently associated with the tendon sheath or synovial joint, complete excision can be difficult. Often, partial excision of the joint capsule or tendon sheath is necessary for complete removal of the tumor. Meticulous dissection and exploration are essential because satellite lesions are common. A Freer elevator or other blunt probe is often helpful in teasing these satellite lesions from beneath the surrounding tendons or other structures. Avoid puncturing these lesions because seeding of adjacent soft-tissue structures may be possible. Occasionally, bony debridement with a curette or rongeur is necessary if adjacent bony erosion is present.

Jones et al [17] noted an association between these lesions and arthritis at the DIP joint. If such arthritis is present, debridement or fusion may be necessary to completely eradicate the process. If the tumor involves the skin, consider the excision of an elliptical area of skin along with the mass. Skin excision may necessitate secondary skin grafting. Rarely, tendon reconstruction may be necessary if tumor excision compromises the associated tendon. Even with careful dissection, reported recurrence rates are 9-44%.