Osteoma is a type of benign tumor, typically formed by abnormal growth of bones and other tissue that usually grows next to or within bones. Most commonly these tumor growths are found in children. In many cases, the tumors can be removed with ease. Since they are benign, they do not run the risk of spreading cancer to other parts of the body, though it is not uncommon for children who have had one osteoma to have another at the same site or to develop another tumor in a different bone section of the body.
Frequently, the tumors are fairly easy to remove, and most of these tumors occur on the thighbone or on the bones of the hand. A more serious version of the tumor can develop if an osteoma is present in the spinal column. Any surgery on the spine carries significant risk, since risk of paralysis and cutting the spinal cord is present. When a tumor in the spine is present, due caution is needed during surgical treatment.
It is important to remove these tumors because they can continue to accumulate mass and create hard bone structures that can obstruct normal movement. They may also be painful, particularly at night, cause limping, and interfere with normal growth and muscle health. There are several ways to remove them.
The most direct method for removal is called curettage, where the tumor is scooped out from inside the bone. Since this leaves a hollow space in the bone, it is filled with bone tissue from a matching donor. In children, these surgeries can have excellent results with normal growth of bone thereafter.
A more recent procedure is called percutaneous radiofrequency ablation. The tumor is exposed to radiofrequency waves via needle to kill the tumor and prevent additional growth. Many people opt for this procedure since it is considered minimally invasive and may be performed under a sedative instead of under general anesthesia. Very aggressive or large tumors may not respond well to this treatment, however.
In the most severe cases, orthopedic surgeons may need to do a surgical procedure called en bloc resection. This literally removes a segment of the bone that contains the tumor. This is an atypical treatment for osteoma in present day, but was done with greater regularity in the past.
People who have had a single osteoma must be followed by an orthopedist on a yearly or even more frequent basis since these tumors can recur. It is unknown what causes osteomata, and the sudden abnormal growth of tissues. In most cases, those this condition lead very normal lives, and have few restrictions on activities after treatment is completed.