From the Archives of the AFIP: Imaging of synovial chondromatosis with radiologic-pathologic correlation

Mark D. Murphey, Jorge A. Vidal, Julie Fanburg-Smith, Donald A. Gajewski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


Primary synovial chondromatosis represents an uncommon benign neoplastic process with hyaline cartilage nodules in the subsynovial tissue of a joint, tendon sheath, or bursa. The nodules may enlarge and detach from the synovium. The knee, followed by the hip, in male adults are the most commonly involved sites and patient population. The pathologic appearance may simulate chondrosarcoma because of significant histologic atypia, and radiologic correlation to localize the process as synovially based is vital for correct diagnosis. Radiologic findings are frequently pathognomonic. Radiographs reveal multiple intraarticular calcifications (70%-95% of cases) of similar size and shape, distributed throughout the joint, with typical "ring-and-arc" chondroid mineralization. Extrinsic erosion of bone is seen in 20%-50% of cases. Computed tomography (CT) optimally depicts the calcified intraarticular fragments and extrinsic bone erosion. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings are more variable, depending on the degree of mineralization, although the most common pattern (77% of cases) reveals low to intermediate signal intensity with T1-weighting and very high signal intensity with T2-weighting with hypointense calcifications. These signal intensity characteristics on MR images and low attenuation of the nonmineralized regions on CT scans reflect the high water content of the cartilaginous lesions. CT and MR imaging depict the extent of the synovial disease (particularly surrounding soft-tissue involvement) and lobular growth. Secondary synovial chondromatosis can be distinguished from primary disease both radiologically (underlying articular disease and fewer chondral bodies of variable size and shape) and pathologically (concentric rings of growth). Treatment of primary disease is surgical synovectomy with removal of chondral fragments; recurrence rates range from 3% to 23%. Malignant transformation to chondrosarcoma is unusual (5% of cases) and, although difficult to distinguish from benign disease, is suggested by multiple recurrences and marrow invasion. Recognizing the appearances of primary synovial chondromatosis, which reflect their underlying pathologic characteristics, improves radiologic assessment and is important to optimize patient management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1465-1488
Number of pages24
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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