A unicameral bone cyst, also known as a simple bone cyst, is a benign (not cancerous) bone tumor. These tumors are mostly commonly found near the shoulder and hip joints. They often go away without treatment after your child has completed the growth cycle.
Treatment can range from observation to surgical removal of the cyst. The cause of simple bone cysts is still unknown.
Although these cysts are benign and usually go away with time, they can still lead to problems. They have the potential to weaken bone and can lead to breaks, which can be painful and may require surgery.
These cysts are usually found in one of three ways:
- Bone fracture: Sometimes these fractures can be treated with a cast and the cyst can be observed later. Other times, the fracture can involve critical areas, like the hip. In these cases, your surgeon may recommend surgery for your child to prevent future growth complications.
- Complaint of pain: If your child has pain in an area, an X-ray may reveal a cyst. If a cyst can be seen from an X-ray, it is likely a fracture is about to occur. This may be the cause of your child’s pain. Surgery to remove the cyst may be required to prevent the fracture.
- Incidentally: Occasionally, X-rays may be performed for one reason, and a cyst with no prior symptoms is seen on the X-ray. Treatment options can vary based on the child and doctor.
Cysts have often been treated by injecting them with steroids to reduce the size. However, when using this method, the vast majority (approximately 70%) of cysts return. We limit the risk of a cyst returning by “scraping out” and then filling the space with injectable calcium using minimally invasive surgery. The calcium is used to help stimulate healing. This method has decreased the recurrence rate of the cysts to about 30%. Once your child has been treated for cysts, it is important that they continue to see their doctor even if there is no pain to help ensure the cyst does not return.