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Is intralesional treatment of giant cell tumor of the distal radius comparable to resection with respect to local control and functional outcome?

BACKGROUND: A giant cell tumor is a benign locally aggressive tumor commonly seen in the distal radius with reported recurrence rates higher than tumors at other sites. The dilemma for the treating surgeon is deciding whether intralesional treatment is adequate compared with resection of the primary tumor for oncologic and functional outcomes. More information would be helpful to guide shared decision-making.

QUESTIONS/PURPOSES: We asked: (1) How will validated functional scores, ROM, and strength differ between resection versus intralesional excision for a giant cell tumor of the distal radius? (2) How will recurrence rate and reoperation differ between these types of treatments? (3) What are the complications resulting in reoperation after intralesional excision and resection procedures? (4) Is there a difference in functional outcome in treating a primary versus recurrent giant cell tumor with a resection arthrodesis?

METHODS: Between 1985 and 2008, 39 patients (39 wrists) were treated for primary giant cell tumor of the distal radius at two academic centers. Twenty patients underwent primary intralesional excision, typically in cases where bony architecture and cortical thickness were preserved, 15 underwent resection with radiocarpal arthrodesis, and four had resection with osteoarticular allograft. Resection regardless of reconstruction type was favored in cases with marked cortical expansion. A specific evaluation for purposes of the study with radiographs, ROM, grip strength, and pain and functional scores was performed at a minimum of 1 year for 21 patients (54%) and an additional 11 patients (28%) were available only by phone. We also assessed reoperations for recurrence and other complications via chart review.

RESULTS: With the numbers available, there were no differences in pain or functional scores or grip strength between groups; however, there was greater supination in the intralesional excision group (p=0.037). Tumors recurred in six of 17 wrists after intralesional excision and none of the 15 after en bloc resection (p=0.030). There was no relationship between tumor grade and recurrence. There were 12 reoperations in eight of 17 patients in the intralesional excision group but only one of 11 patients (p=0.049) who underwent resection arthrodesis with distal radius allograft had a reoperation. There were no differences in functional scores whether resection arthrodesis was performed as the primary procedure or to treat recurrence after intralesional excision.

CONCLUSIONS: Resection for giant cell tumor of the distal radius with distal radius allograft arthrodesis showed a lower recurrence rate, lower reoperation rate, and no apparent differences in functional outcome compared with joint salvage with intralesional excision. Because an arthrodesis for recurrence after intralesional procedures seems to function well, we believe that intralesional excision is reasonable to consider for initial treatment, but the patient should be informed about the relative benefits and risks of both options during the shared decision-making process. Because arthrodesis after recurrence functions similar to the initial resection and arthrodesis, an initial treatment with curettage remains a viable, and likely the standard, mode of treatment for most giant cell tumors of the distal radius unless there is extensive bone loss.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III, therapeutic study.

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