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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2012 Jul;94(7):882-8. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.94B7.28927.

The management of diffuse-type giant cell tumour (pigmented villonodular synovitis) and giant cell tumour of tendon sheath (nodular tenosynovitis).

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Leiden University Medical Center, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Postzone J11-70, PO Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


Giant cell tumours (GCT) of the synovium and tendon sheath can be classified into two forms: localised (giant cell tumour of the tendon sheath, or nodular tenosynovitis) and diffuse (diffuse-type giant cell tumour or pigmented villonodular synovitis). The former principally affects the small joints. It presents as a solitary slow-growing tumour with a characteristic appearance on MRI and is treated by surgical excision. There is a significant risk of multiple recurrences with aggressive diffuse disease. A multidisciplinary approach with dedicated MRI, histological assessment and planned surgery with either adjuvant radiotherapy or systemic targeted therapy is required to improve outcomes in recurrent and refractory diffuse-type GCT. Although arthroscopic synovectomy through several portals has been advocated as an alternative to arthrotomy, there is a significant risk of inadequate excision and recurrence, particularly in the posterior compartment of the knee. For local disease partial arthroscopic synovectomy may be sufficient, at the risk of recurrence. For both local and diffuse intra-articular disease open surgery is advised for recurrent disease. Marginal excision with focal disease will suffice, not dissimilar to the treatment of GCT of tendon sheath. For recurrent and extra-articular soft-tissue disease adjuvant therapy, including intra-articular radioactive colloid or moderate-dose external beam radiotherapy, should be considered.

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