Clear cell chondrosarcoma

Dr Jeremy Jones and A.Prof Frank Gaillard et al.

Clear cell chondrosarcomas are a subtype of chondrosarcoma constituting 1-2% of all chondrosarcomas. They are typically low-grade (see chondrosarcoma grading) and get their name from the presence of clear cell chondrocytes which contain abundant vacuolated cytoplasm due to the presence of glycogen.

They typically present in patients in their 3rd to 5th decade, with men being affected twice as often as women (M:F ~ 2:1 ).

Symptoms persist for an average duration of one year, suggesting slow growth of the lesion.

In approximately half of the cases, conventional chondrosarcomatous elements are also present. Macroscopically, haemorrhage and cyst formation are common, and radiographically matrix calcification is uncommon.

The lesion is most often in an epiphyseal location (in contradistinction to conventional chondrosarcoma, which is usually metaphyseal-diaphyseal).

  • tubular long bones: 85-90%
    • proximal femur: 55-60% (commonest)
    • proximal humerus: 10-15%
    • distal femur or proximal tibia: 10-15%

On radiographs, clear cell chondrosarcomas are predominantly lytic and expansile. 

  • endosteal irregularity is not infrequent
  • periosteal reaction does not occur
  • soft tissue extension and cortical break are usually seen only if a pathologic fracture occurs
  • low reported incidence of calcified matrix
  • in up to 20% of cases, a peripheral rind of sclerosis is apparent (simulating a benign lesion)

Typically reported signal characteristics on MR imaging include:

  • T1: homogeneous intermediate signal intensity
  • T1 C+ (Gd): may show heterogeneous enhancement 
  • T2: heterogeneous high signal intensity 

 A clear cell chondrosarcoma is a relatively slow-growing, low-grade malignant tumour. It carries a much better prognosis than a conventional chondrosarcoma. Because of the relatively benign appearance of the lesion on radiographs, surgical intervention is often delayed. Distant metastases have, however, been reported in the lung, brain, and bones.

Bone tumours

The differential diagnosis for bone tumours is dependent on the age of the patient, with a very different set of differentials for the paediatric patient.

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Article information

rID: 6194
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Clear cell chondrosarcomas

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1
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    Case 2: in proximal humerus
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