Bone cysts are fluid-filled growths that appear inside a bone. While they are benign, bone cysts that appear on x-rays can still be stressful, as they can lead to bone weakness, deformation, and potential fractures. Thinking about it might be unpleasant, but quite often, bone cysts are easily treated or simply heal over time on their own. Even so, it’s important to understand why they occur, how they’re treated, and how IGEA Brain, Spine & Orthopedics can help.

Types of bone cyst

Unicameral bone cysts: These are fluid-filled sacs within a normal growing bone, often found in the upper arm (near the shoulder), on the femur or hips. There are two types of unicameral bone cyst: active and latent. Active cysts are ones that appear near a growth plate, potentially causing damage. Latent ones are located away from growth plates and are less threatening to bone development.

Aneurysmal bone cysts: An aneurysmal bone cyst is one that’s formed by several blood-filled sacs within a bone. These cysts are significantly more rare, representing only 1% of all bone tumor cases. They’re reactive lesions that can expand, causing pain and swelling. Like unicameral bone cysts, these also have two subtypes: active and aggressive. An active cyst can deform the bone it’s in, but will remain inside that bone, while an aggressive one will expand beyond the bone and can damage surrounding tissue.

What causes bone cysts?

While the underlying causes of bone cysts is unclear, there are a couple of prevailing theories. Unicameral bone cysts may stem from a developing bone’s inability to properly drain fluid, causing a buildup. An aneurysmal bone cyst, on the other hand, might be a result of blood vessel abnormalities from prior injuries or growths, which engenders blood retention.

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What are the symptoms of bone cysts?

Sometimes, bone cysts (unicameral) cause no symptoms at all, especially in mild cases. But larger cysts, or ones near a growth plate, can cause:

  • pain
  • lack of mobility
  • discolored skin
  • angulation (a limb bent at an unusual angle).

Aneurysmal bone cysts, however, cause symptoms more frequently, including:

  • pain that starts slow, like a dull ache, and increases over time
  • reduced mobility
  • bone deformity
  • skin that is warm to the touch.

Aneurysmal bone cysts that form on vertebrate can also effect the spine and central nervous system, causing:

  • muscle weakness
  • numbness
  • headaches
  • shooting pains

Are bone cysts cancerous?

When you see a tumorous lump on x-rays or additional scans, your mind might first jump to the worst-case scenario: cancer. But while bone cysts can be concerning in their own right, they’re benign, so you don’t have to worry.

Where and when do bone cysts occur?

Bone cysts commonly appear in children and adolescents, but can occur in adults as well. Aneurysmal bone cysts can appear anywhere, but often form near the pelvis, knee, or spine. You’ll typically find a unicameral bone cyst on one of the larger bones – like the humerus or femur – near a growth plate. X-rays and CT scans are the most effective ways to discover and evaluate bone cysts, and some may require biopsies.

Sometimes, bone cysts appear in the shoulders or hips of patients with osteoarthritis. In these cases, cartilage and bone within the joint have worn down and left an empty space that fills with fluid. These subchondral cysts are generally addressed by treating the patient’s osteoarthritis directly.

How are bone cysts treated? Consult IGEA’s expert physicians.

The good news is that both types of bone cysts are highly treatable. At times, doctors will recommend waiting and watching minor unicameral bone cysts as they sometimes heal on their own without treatment. In other cases, a steroidal injection can help the bone reabsorb the cyst. Otherwise, a bone graft might be the best option, where a surgeon drains the fluid, scrapes away the cyst lining, and fills that space with artificial graft material. Bone grafts are extremely effective for both unicameral and aneurysmal bone cysts, although this type of minimally-invasive surgery is more often necessary for aneurysmal types.

IGEA’s highly-skilled orthopedists will take time to learn your unique circumstances, make an accurate diagnosis, and prescribe the most appropriate treatment to help you continue your ideal lifestyle. With the latest medical advancements at their disposal, they can effectively treat a variety of bone cysts quickly and safely.

Need more info? No problem. It’s easy to get in touch with us. Sit down for a consultation and you’ll experience not just unrivaled expertise, but above-and-beyond care and comfort.