VOL. 88-B, No. 5, MAY 2006 673
Recurrent synovial chondromatosis of the
knee after radical synovectomy and
J. S. Church,
W. H. Breidahl,
G. C. Janes
J. S. Church, BSc, FRCS(Tr &
Orth), Orthopaedic Fellow
17 Inman Road, London SW18
W. H. Breidahl, MRCP,
Perth Radiology Clinic, 127
Hamersley Road, Subiaco 6008,
Western Australia, Australia.
G. C. Janes, FRACS(Orth),
Perth Orthopaedic & Sports
Medicine Centre, 31 Outram
Street, West Perth 6005,
Western Australia, Australia.
Correspondence should be sent
to Mr J. S. Church; e-mail:
©2006 British Editorial Society
of Bone and Joint Surgery
J Bone Joint Surg [Br]
Received 22 December 2005;
Accepted 18 January 2006
We describe a case of highly refractory synovial chondromatosis, which recurred despite
four arthroscopic synovectomies, a chemical synovectomy, two open synovectomies and
an arthrodesis. A review of the literature revealed one similar case. Both presented with
marked joint stiffness suggesting a poor prognosis. Although arthrodesis may relieve
short-term symptoms it does not prevent further recurrence of disease.
In January 1996, a 24-year-old female teacher
and national-standard hockey player was seen
with a three-month history of progressive loss
of movement and locking of the right knee. On
examination, she had a diffusely swollen joint
with a ﬁxed-ﬂexion deformity of 45˚ and ﬂex-
ion to 90˚. She underwent an arthroscopy at
her local hospital during which multiple chon-
dromata were removed. Histology of these
chondromata revealed variably sized nodules
of hyaline cartilage, some which which were
undergoing dystrophic calciﬁcation. Synovial
chondromatosis was diagnosed. Following
arthroscopy and two subsequent injections of
cortisone, the patient’s range of movement
improved and she was able to return to playing
hockey. However, within three months, her
symptoms returned with associated pain and
swelling. This persisted despite an attempted
chemical synovectomy with a course of yttrium
injections and two further arthroscopic debride-
ments. By November 1997, she had a ﬁxed-
ﬂexion deformity of 40˚ with ﬂexion to only
50˚. An MRI scan revealed extensive synovial
ﬁbrosis with a loose body, 4 cm x 4 cm, in the
posterior compartment of the knee (Fig. 1).
She was referred to the regional tertiary cen-
tre, where it was decided to perform an open
synovectomy and removal of loose bodies. His-
tology, following the procedure, conﬁrmed the
diagnosis of recurrent synovial chondroma-
tosis. Following this, however, her pain and
reduced movement persisted and, in April
1998, she underwent a radical open synovec-
tomy. This included the removal of both the
menisci and cruciates, which improved her
pain with a range of movement from 10˚ to
Sagittal proton density image through the
intercondylar region of the right knee. A
large, low-signal-intensity mass lies poste-
rior to the anterior cruciate ligament (arrow).
674 J. S. CHURCH, W. H. BREIDAHL, G. C. JANES
THE JOURNAL OF BONE AND JOINT SURGERY
100˚ of ﬂexion. Unfortunately, the improvement was brief.
Over the following year she underwent a further arthro-
scopic debridement, daily continuous passive movement
and correction of the ﬁxed-ﬂexion deformity with a circular
frame. Despite this, she continued to experience constant
pain in the knee and a limited range of movement from 0˚
to 10˚ of ﬂexion. An MRI scan showed signiﬁcant intra-
articular ﬁbrosis but no evidence of recurrence (Fig. 2).
In April 2001, arthrodesis of the knee was successfully
undertaken using a circular frame. The pain resolved and
she was able to return to an active lifestyle, which included
participating in triathlons. In April 2005, however, she pre-
sented with a nine-month history of progressive night pain,
which had not responded to anti-inﬂammatory medication.
A further MRI scan revealed a solid fusion, but with multi-
ple foci of nodular synovial proliferation in the medial and
lateral gutters, intercondylar notch and along the popliteus
tendon, consistent with a diagnosis of recurrent synovial
chondromatosis (Fig. 3).
Synovial chondromatosis is a rare, benign condition charac-
terised by cartilaginous metaplasia of the intimal layer of
the synovial membrane of joints, tendons and bursae. Jaffe
described the condition in 1958,
and the knee is the most
commonly affected joint.
The early literature focused on
the primary management of this condition. Murphy et al
described 32 patients treated at the Mayo clinic with open
removal of loose bodies and affected synovium. There was
only one recurrence. Jeffreys
reviewed 17 cases treated sur-
gically, with no recurrences. His paper concluded that
removal of the loose bodies alone was preferable to syn-
ovectomy, because there was less post-operative stiffness
Sagittal proton density image through the intercondylar region of the
right knee. There is extensive fibrosis in the intercondylar region and the
fat pad. Patella baja has developed.
MRI scans performed in April 2005, demonstrating, a) sagittal T2-
weighted fat-suppressed image after arthrodesis. The recurrent synovial
chondromatosis appears as an area of relatively high signal intensity pos-
teriorly (arrow) and, b) coronal T2-weighted fat-suppressed image dem-
onstrating no residual joint space.
RECURRENT SYNOVIAL CHONDROMATOSIS OF THE KNEE AFTER RADICAL SYNOVECTOMY AND ARTHRODESIS 675
VOL. 88-B, No. 5, MAY 2006
and complete synovectomy was ‘impracticable’. In 1989,
Coolican and Dandy
reported that arthroscopic removal
of loose bodies and the affected synovium achieved better
results than open procedures, and in the same year Dorf-
mann et al
concluded that arthroscopic removal of the
loose bodies alone gave satisfactory results. This was dis-
puted by Ogilvie-Harris and Saleh
in 1994, who found a
signiﬁcant difference between the rates of recurrence after
arthroscopic removal of the loose bodies and arthroscopic
synovectomy. All recurrences were subsequently treated
successfully with an arthroscopic synovectomy.
One can, therefore, conclude that recurrence of synovial
chondromatosis is rare, particularly after synovectomy. The
majority of the reported recurrences have responded well to
a repeat procedure. We could only ﬁnd one report of a
highly refractory synovial chondromatosis similar to our
case. This was the one failure reported by Coolican and
in which the patient presented with a range of
movement from 45˚ to 90˚ of ﬂexion. After three arthro-
scopic synovectomies and removal of loose bodies, an
arthrotomy and an open synovectomy, the patient still com-
plained of severe pain and stiffness. A manipulation under
anaesthetic was performed which resulted in a fracture of
the femur. When this had united, the patient was left with
20˚ of movement in the knee and an arthrodesis was
offered. No further information was available as to the
eventual outcome of this patient.
The primary complaint in both our case and that of
Coolican and Dandy
was of signiﬁcant stiffness, both hav-
ing a range of movement from 45˚ to 90˚ of ﬂexion at pre-
sentation. Synovial chondromatosis most commonly pre-
sents with pain and swelling in the affected joint.
Stiffness was reported as a secondary symptom in only two
of eight patients of Jeffreys,
all of whom complained pri-
marily of pain and swelling, and loss of extension was
noted in ﬁve of 18 knees by Coolican and Dandy.
case of recurrence and in ours, the stiffness was severe and
was the primary complaint, suggesting a poor prognosis.
The stiffness in our case could be caused by a thickened,
metaplastic synovium coupled with the presence of multiple
loose bodies within the knee.
Arthrodesis has previously been reported to be a success-
ful salvage procedure for recurrent synovial chondromato-
sis. Harvey and Negrine
carried out an arthrodesis of the
distal interphalangeal joint of the middle ﬁnger and reported
no recurrence after three years. Hocking and Negrine
sequently described the successful outcomes of two arthro-
deses performed for synovial chondromatosis of the
subtalar joint at ﬁve years. To the best of our knowledge,
ours is the ﬁrst outcome report of arthrodesis for refractory
synovial chondromatosis of the knee and is the ﬁrst re-
ported case of recurrence in any joint after arthrodesis. Al-
though the arthrodesis initially provided signiﬁcant pain
relief and functional improvement, it did not prevent recur-
rence of the synovial chondromatosis.
No beneﬁts in any form have been received or will be received from a commer-
cial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.
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Arthroscopic management of synovial chondromatosis of
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J Bone Joint Surg [Br]
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Primary synovial chondromatosis of the subtalar joint affect-
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Foot Ankle Int
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Arthroscopic treatment of synovial
chondromatosis of the knee.
6. Ogilvie-Harris DJ, Saleh K.
Generalized synovial chondromatosis of the knee: a
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