Orthopedic Surgery


Osteoblastoma is a rare benign bone tumor that accounts for about 1 percent of all primary bone tumors in the United States. It affects males twice as frequently as females.

While most primary bone tumors form in the extremities, osteoblastoma usually forms in the lower vertebrae of the spine or in the long bones of the leg. It can also occur in any of the bones in the arm, hands, legs and feet.

Osteoblastoma is difficult to diagnose because it can manifest in different ways — as a slow-growing tumor or as a more aggressive tumor that invades surrounding tissue and bone. The more aggressive form of osteoblastoma may mimic the signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma, a cancerous tumor which is 20 times more common than osteoblastoma. It may also occur in conjunction with aneurysmal bone cysts, another benign tumor.

Osteoblastoma is also closely related to osteoid osteoma, a more common benign bone tumor, but differs in that an osteoblastoma can grow larger than an osteoid osteoma.

If an osteoblastoma is located on or in the spinal column, it can cause scoliosis and neurological symptoms.

Cause of osteoblastoma

It is not known what causes osteoblastoma.

Symptoms of osteoblastoma

Symptoms of osteoblastoma include:

Diagnosing osteoblastoma

The clinical course of osteoblastoma can make it difficult to diagnose. It can present as a slow growth or an aggressive growth, and its symptoms and clinical and radiographic features can be confused with osteoid osteoma, giant cell tumor, fibrous dysplasia and osteosarcoma.

A careful examination is necessary for an accurate diagnosis of osteoblastoma.

At The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), diagnostic evaluation begins with a thorough medical history and physical examination of your child.

Clinical experts use a variety of diagnostic tests to diagnose osteoblastoma, including:

Treatment for osteoblastoma

Surgically removing the tumor is usually the recommended treatment for osteoblastoma.

At Children’s Hospital, we generally use a surgical procedure called intralesional curettage, to scrape out the bone to completely remove the tumor and fill the space with bone graft material.

Though surgery is highly effective, we understand that any surgery can be a stressful experience for children and families. At CHOP, we offer a wealth of resources about how to prepare your child for surgery and what to expect during surgery.

Additionally, we employ numerous best practices before, during and after surgery to decrease the risk of infection and increase positive outcomes. See safety in surgery for details about safety protocols at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Follow-up care

At CHOP, we offer ongoing support and services for patients and families at our Main Campus and throughout our CHOP Care Network. Our team is committed to partnering with parents and referring physicians to provide the most current, comprehensive and specialized care possible for your child.

If your child had surgery for osteoblastoma, he or she will return for check-ups one to two weeks after surgery, then again at three months, six months and one year post-surgery.

As with other tumors, it is important for your child to see a physician regularly for check-ups to monitor the area in case the tumor should return.

For children with osteoblastoma that leads to scoliosis or other curvature of the spine, additional treatment may be necessary.

Long-term outcomes

Osteoblastoma has a recurrence rate of about 10-20 percent, especially if the tumor was not able to be completely removed during surgery.

Long-term outcomes for children with osteoblastomas are good. There are no reported cases of osteoblastomas transforming into malignant tumors.


Contact us

To make an appointment with the Division of Orthopedic Surgery at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, call 215-590-1527 or contact us online.

Reviewed by: Jason L. Katz, PA-C, MHS, ATC-R, and John P. Dormans, MD, FACS
Date: January 2013

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CHOP's Division of Orthopedic Surgery works closely with the Cancer Center to diagnose and treat children with benign and malignant tumors. Learn more about the Cancer Center at CHOP