Giant cell tumours of the small bones of the hands and feet

Long-term results of 30 patients and a systematic literature review

V. C. Oliveira, L. van der Heijden, I. C. M. van der Geest, D. A. Campanacci, C. L. M. H. Gibbons, M. A. J. van de Sande, P. D. S. Dijkstra


Giant cell tumours (GCTs) of the small bones of the hands and feet are rare. Small case series have been published but there is no consensus about ideal treatment. We performed a systematic review, initially screening 775 titles, and included 12 papers comprising 91 patients with GCT of the small bones of the hands and feet. The rate of recurrence across these publications was found to be 72% (18 of 25) in those treated with isolated curettage, 13% (2 of 15) in those treated with curettage plus adjuvants, 15% (6 of 41) in those treated by resection and 10% (1 of 10) in those treated by amputation.

We then retrospectively analysed 30 patients treated for GCT of the small bones of the hands and feet between 1987 and 2010 in five specialised centres. The primary treatment was curettage in six, curettage with adjuvants (phenol or liquid nitrogen with or without polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA)) in 18 and resection in six. We evaluated the rate of complications and recurrence as well as the factors that influenced their functional outcome.

At a mean follow-up of 7.9 years (2 to 26) the rate of recurrence was 50% (n = 3) in those patients treated with isolated curettage, 22% (n = 4) in those treated with curettage plus adjuvants and 17% (n = 1) in those treated with resection (p = 0.404). The only complication was pain in one patient, which resolved after surgical removal of remnants of PMMA. We could not identify any individual factors associated with a higher rate of complications or recurrence. The mean post-operative Musculoskeletal Tumor Society scores were slightly higher after intra-lesional treatment including isolated curettage and curettage plus adjuvants (29 (20 to 30)) compared with resection (25 (15 to 30)) (p = 0.091). Repeated curettage with adjuvants eventually resulted in the cure for all patients and is therefore a reasonable treatment for both primary and recurrent GCT of the small bones of the hands and feet.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2013;95-B:838–45.


  • No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

    This article was primary edited by A. Ross and first-proof edited by G. Scott.

  • Received September 10, 2012.
  • Accepted February 19, 2013.
View Full Text

Log in through your institution