Pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS) results from synovial proliferation and haemosiderin deposition.
PVNS occurs predominantly in the early to middle age (2nd to 5th decades)1-2. In intra-articular disease there is no gender predilection, whereas extra-articular disease has a slight female predominance.
Presentation is usually with joint swelling, pain and occasionally joint dysfunction. Usually symptoms have been present for many months before diagnosis is made.
Although unusual in the paediatric population, it is sometimes seen, and is more frequently poly-articular. It has also been described in association with: 2
- extremity lymphoedema
- jaw lesions
- multiple lentigines syndrome
- Noonan syndrome
- vascular lesions
Macroscopically the synovium is diffusely thickened with multiple villous and nodular projections. These are typically dark brown and heterogeneous is colour with areas of yellow discolouration (xanthoma cells).
On microscopy mononuclear histiocytes predominate mixed in with variable numbers of multi-nucleated giant cells (absent in 20% of cases). Overall there is a diffuse infiltrative growth pattern 2. It is important to note that histologically appearance may mimic aggressive neoplasms such as rhabdomyosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, or epithelioid sarcoma, and thus the role of imaging in guiding the pathologist is crucial.
Malignant transformation of PVNS is rare, and controversy exists as to histologic criteria for its diagnosis.
- knee (far the most frequently affected joint 2): 66-80%
- hip: 4-16%
- spine 6
- other joints
All synovial membranes may be affected, and thus bursae and tendon sheaths may also be involved. The condition is then known as pigmented villonodular bursitis (PVNB) and pigmented villonodular tenosynovitis (PVNTS) respectively. The latter is also known as giant cell tumour of the tendon sheath (GCTTS).
PVNS/B/TS is divided into localised and diffuse.
- localised - most common and usually extra-articular (PVNB and PVNTS) 2.
- diffuse - (i.e. involves all of the contiguous synovium) is the most common form of intra-articular disease, although local intra-articular is also sometimes seen.
Typically PVNS is a monoarticular condition and joints with large synovial surfaces are predictably most frequently affected. The remainder of this article focuses on intra-articular disease (PVNS).
On plain film, features are relatively non-specific with appearances mainly being those of a joint effusion. Bone density and joint space are preserved until late stages. Marginal erosions may be present but it is not possible to distinguish PVNS from synovial chondromatosis (non ossified synovial osteochondromatosis).
Joint effusions commonly co-exist. The hypertrophic synovium appears as a soft tissue mass, which on account of haemosiderin, may appear slightly hyper dense compared to adjacent muscle. Calcification is very rare in the synovial mass (c.f synovioma where it is common)
Erosions are often well seen on CT.
MRI typically shows masslike synovial proliferation with lobulated margins. This may be extensive in the diffuse form or limited to a well-defined single nodule in the localized form 9 with low signal intensity due to haemosiderin deposition.
Signal characteristics include
- T1 - low to intermediate signal
- T1 C+ (Gd) - variable enhancement
- low to intermediate signal
- some areas of high signal may be present likely due to joint fluid or inflamed synovium
- GE (gradient echo) - low and may demonstrate blooming
Treatment and prognosis
Treatment is with complete synovectomy, which offers a good prospect of cure, provided all the synovium is excised. This can be difficult and therefore adjuvant treatment is often employed, especially external beam radiotherapy which offers excellent control. Intra-articular injection of Yttrium 90 is an alternative.
Medical therapy is also being investigated in refractory cases including: α-TNF (tumour necrosis factor) blockade and infliximab.
Recurrence rates after total synovectomy is reported to be 7-20% 2.
The term PVNS was first proposed by Jaffe at al in 1949 6
On MRI there is little differential in classic examples.
- scarring / capsulitis
- siderotic synovitis
On plain film the differential is wide, and findings are non-specific.
- 1. Kaplan P. Musculoskeletal MRI. W B Saunders Co. (2001) ISBN:0721690270. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
- 2. Murphey MD, Rhee JH, Lewis RB et-al. Pigmented villonodular synovitis: radiologic-pathologic correlation. Radiographics. 28 (5): 1493-518. doi:10.1148/rg.285085134 - Pubmed citation
- 3.Masih S, Antebi A. Imaging of pigmented villonodular synovitis. Semin Musculoskelet Radiol. 2003;7 (3): 205-16. doi:10.1055/s-2003-43231 - Pubmed citation
- 4. Bravo SM, Winalski CS, Weissman BN. Pigmented villonodular synovitis. Radiol. Clin. North Am. 1996;34 (2): 311-26, x-xi. - Pubmed citation
- 5. Barile A, Sabatini M, Iannessi F et-al. Pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS) of the knee joint: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) using standard and dynamic paramagnetic contrast media. Report of 52 cases surgically and histologically controlled. Radiol Med. 2004;107 (4): 356-66. Radiol Med (link) - Pubmed citation
- 6. Parmar HA, Sitoh YY, Tan KK et-al. MR imaging features of pigmented villonodular synovitis of the cervical spine. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2004;25 (1): 146-9. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol (full text) - Pubmed citation
- 7. Sharma H, Jane M, Reid R. Current Orthopaedics. 2005;19 (3): . doi:10.1016/j.cuor.2005.02.013
- 8. Saxena A, Perez H. Pigmented villonodular synovitis about the ankle: a review of the literature and presentation in 10 athletic patients. Foot Ankle Int. 2005;25 (11): 819-26. Pubmed citation
- 9. Narváez JA, Narváez J, Ortega R et-al. Hypointense synovial lesions on T2-weighted images: differential diagnosis with pathologic correlation. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2003;181 (3): 761-9. AJR Am J Roentgenol (citation) - Pubmed citation
Synonyms & Alternative Spellings
|Synonyms or Alternative Spelling||Include in Listings?|
|Pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS)||✗|
|Pigmented villonodular bursitis||✓|
|Fibrous xanthoma of the synovial membrane||✓|
|Polymorphocellular tumour of the synovial membrane||✓|
|Giant cell fibrohemangioma||✓|
|Chronic hemorrhagic villous synovitis||✓|