Tumors rarely affect joints, unless by direct extension of an adjacent bone or soft-tissue tumor. However, 2 conditions—synovial chondromatosis and pigmented villonodular synovitis—occur in the lining (synovium) of joints. These conditions are benign but locally aggressive. Both usually affect one joint, most often the knee and second most often the hip, and can cause pain and effusion. Both are treated by synovectomy and removal of any intra-articular bodies.
Synovial chondromatosis (previously called synovial osteochondromatosis) is considered metaplastic. It is characterized by numerous calcified cartilaginous bodies in the synovium, which often become loose. Each body may be no larger than a grain of rice, in a swollen, painful joint. Malignant change is very rare. Recurrence is common. Diagnosis is by imaging, usually CT or MRI. Treatment may be symptomatic, but if mechanical symptoms are prominent, arthroscopic or open removal of the bodies or synovium is warranted.
Pigmented villonodular synovitis
Pigmented villonodular synovitis is considered neoplastic. The synovium becomes thickened and contains hemosiderin, which gives the tissue its blood-stained appearance and characteristic appearance on MRI. This tissue tends to invade adjacent bone, causing cystic destruction and damage to the cartilage. Pigmented villonodular synovitis is usually monarticular but may be polyarticular. Late management, especially after recurrence, may require total joint replacement. On rare occasions after several synovectomies, radiation therapy is sometimes used.
Last full review/revision May 2012 by Michael J. Joyce, MD