Giant Cell Tumor of Tendon Sheath Workup

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

Imaging Studies

Plain radiography

Plain radiographs demonstrate a benign-appearing circumscribed soft-tissue shadow in 50% of cases. These radiographs also show cortical erosion of the bone due to a pressure effect of the adjacent mass on the cortex in 10-20% of cases (see the images below).

Radiograph demonstrates cortical erosion from the Radiograph demonstrates cortical erosion from the pressure effect of the adjacent mass on the radial aspect of the proximal phalanx.
Radiograph demonstrates the bony erosion associate Radiograph demonstrates the bony erosion associated with some giant cell tumors of the tendon sheath and shows the unmineralized soft-tissue shadow of the mass.

True bone invasion is not typical and is suggestive of an aggressive neoplasm.

Cortical erosion from these tumors is more common in the feet than elsewhere because the strong ligaments in this region frequently prevent outward tumor growth.

Occasionally, intralesional soft-tissue calcification is seen with giant cell tumors of the tendon sheath. This intralesional calcification can be confused with synovial chondromatosis, periosteal chondroma, or calcific tendinitis.

On rare occasions when extensive cortical erosion is present, the lesion may have a radiographic appearance suggestive of a periosteal chondroma (see the images below).

Radiograph demonstrates cortical erosion from the Radiograph demonstrates cortical erosion from the pressure effect of the overlying giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath. This apple-core effect is indicative of a primary soft-tissue mass that is causing external erosion, which should not be confused with a primary bone process such as periosteal chondroma.
Radiograph demonstrates cortical erosion from the Radiograph demonstrates cortical erosion from the pressure effect of the overlying giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath.

Magnetic resonance imaging

On magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), giant cell tumors of the tendon sheath frequently have a unique appearance for an extra-articular soft-tissue mass. [34, 35] On both T1- and T2-weighted MRI, at least some portions of the tumor have decreased signal intensity (see the images below) similar to that seen with pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS). However, this appearance is not entirely specific to giant cell tumors of the tendon sheath.

Typical T2-weighted MRI appearance of a giant cell Typical T2-weighted MRI appearance of a giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath. Most of the tumor has intermediate signal intensity, and portions of the tumor have low signal intensity; the latter finding likely reflects signal attenuation due to hemosiderin deposition.
Typical T1-weighted MRI appearance of a giant cell Typical T1-weighted MRI appearance of a giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath. Portions of the tumor have decreased signal intensity.
Typical T1-weighted MRI findings in a giant cell t Typical T1-weighted MRI findings in a giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath overlying the metacarpophalangeal joint. Note the low-signal-intensity areas.
Corresponding T2-weighted MRI findings in the tumo Corresponding T2-weighted MRI findings in the tumor shown in the image above. Note the areas of low signal intensity.

The degree to which these low-signal-intensity areas are present depends on the amount of hemosiderin, which varies. PVNS often has more low-signal-intensity areas on T2-weighted images, secondary to its higher hemosiderin content resulting from characteristic intralesional bleeding.

Ultrasonography

For the value of sonograms in this setting, see studies by Bancroft et al [35] and Wang et al. [36]

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Histologic Findings

Gross findings

Giant cell tumors of the tendon sheath have a well-circumscribed multilobular appearance and often possess shallow grooves along their deep surfaces created by the underlying tendons. These tumors are usually small, with a diameter of 0.5-5 cm. Compared with other lesions, giant cell tumors in the hand digits are usually smaller and have a more regular appearance. Giant cell tumors in the feet and elsewhere are often larger and more irregular in appearance.

On cut sections, these tumors have a mottled appearance, varying in color from grayish-brown to yellow-orange. The coloration depends on the amount of hemosiderin, collagen, and histiocytes in the sample. Tumors with more hemosiderin deposition due to bleeding have more of the yellow-orange or even reddish-brown color (see the images below).

Intraoperative excision of the giant cell tumor of Intraoperative excision of the giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath, which has the typical golden-yellow color secondary to hemosiderin deposition. The radial digital nerve is dissected free and slightly volar to the mass.
After excision, the bone is curetted, leaving the After excision, the bone is curetted, leaving the exposed radial aspect of the proximal phalanx, as shown here.
Giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath after margin Giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath after marginal excision.

Microscopic findings

Most giant cell tumors of the tendon sheath are moderately cellular and composed of sheets of rounded or polygonal cells that blend with hypocellular collagenized zones. Variable numbers of giant cells are present. Hemosiderin-containing xanthoma cells are common and often localized at the periphery of the lesion. (See the images below.)

Typical microscopic appearance of a giant cell tum Typical microscopic appearance of a giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath. Sheets of rounded or polygonal cells blend with hypocellular collagenized zones; variable numbers of giant cells are present.
Histologic findings of a giant cell tumor of the t Histologic findings of a giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath.
High-power photomicrograph of giant cell tumor of High-power photomicrograph of giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath shows occasional numerous mononuclear cells, scattered giant cells, and hemosiderin-containing xanthoma cells.
High-power photomicrograph depicts the histologic High-power photomicrograph depicts the histologic findings of a giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath.

In the localized form of the disease, a mature collagen capsule often surrounds the tumor. This capsule is continuous, with fibrous septa within the substance of the tumor that divide it into vague nodules. In the diffuse form, the tumor is not surrounded by this capsule and instead grows in expansive sheets.

Giant cells are also less common in the diffuse form. The histologic features of the localized and diffuse forms of giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath and those of the localized and diffuse forms of PVNS are essentially the same; therefore, these diseases form a histopathologic spectrum in which the tumors range from benign lesions to more locally aggressive lesions.

Cytopathologic findings

The predominant cell type is the mononuclear cell. These round-to-polygonal cells are found alone or in papillary clusters and have eccentrically located nuclei that lack pleomorphism. Varying amounts of refractile golden-brown crystals of hemosiderin are characteristically found within the histiocytes. [37, 38]

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