When Amber Kellum discovered she had a potentially cancerous bone cyst in her tibia, she was understandably concerned over how the condition would impact her life. Could she continue her active lifestyle? Would she ever be able to walk the same? Luckily, the answer to both questions from her surgeon, Orlando Orthopaedic Center’s Craig P. Jones, M.D., was a resounding, “Yes.”
Dr. Jones, a board certified orthopaedic surgeon fellowship trained in orthopaedic oncology, discussed treatment options with Amber; and in order to remove the tumor and get her back on her feet as quickly as possible, she chose to have a rod placed in her tibia once the cyst was removed. A mere six weeks later she was walking again, on her way back to the gym and her job as a server at a busy restaurant.
“I was really glad Dr. Jones took care of me because, here I am, back in the gym able to do what I could do before and [I’m] able to live my life.”
What is Bone Cyst Removal Surgery?
Bone cysts are fluid-filled holes that develop inside a bone. Although they can occur at any age, most often they affect children and young adults. Typically, cysts do not present any symptoms; however larger cysts can lead to a bone becoming weak, thereby increasing the likelihood of a fracture (break).
“Though not often, sometimes the bone cyst can progress to a point where it can cause permanent damage to the bone if left unattended,” says Dr. Jones. “With the removal of the cyst and the placement of the rod, as in Amber’s situation, the likelihood of sustained damage in minimized and recovery can begin immediately.”
There are two types of bone cysts that determine the course of action and recovery:
A unicameral bone cyst, or simple bone cyst, creates a cavity in the bone that fills with fluid. This typically occurs in young children and teenagers. While they are considered benign, a cyst can become more invasive and damage the bone’s growth plate or impact the metaphysis (the area where bone shaft and the end of the bone meet). Unicameral bone cysts treatments are dependent on the likelihood of a fracture or further damage. If necessary, a surgeon will remove the cyst and fill the remaining cavity with a donor’s bone tissue. Other treatment options may include injection of bone marrow or steroids into the cyst to assist the healing process.
An aneurysmal bone cyst, while still benign, has the potential to swell in the bone causing pain and creating an increased likelihood of fractures. Depending on the age of the patient, aneurysmal bone cysts have the potential to deform or damage the bone. Surgery is often a necessity and, with a variety of treatment options, there is a course of action to fit each patient. Most surgeries will involve a curettage, the most common treatment for an aneurysmal bone cyst. An instrument called a curette is used to scrape the cyst out of the bone. This process is typically followed by bone grafting to repair the bone.
What is the Recovery Process After Bone Cyst Removal?
The recovery process after a bone cyst removal is entirely dependent on the size and severity of the condition. In some cases, patients may resume normal physical activity within four to six weeks of surgery.
As bone cysts tend to occur in children and teenagers, there is often a potential for bone cysts to return later in life. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, unicameral bone cysts return in 25-50 percent of patients. The risk is higher the younger the child was during the initial treatment. The treatment and recovery processes are the same and your doctor will schedule X-rays regularly to monitor this condition.
In Amber’s case, with the addition of the rod in her tibia, she could begin her recovery sooner following the cyst removal procedure. Although it can be a challenging process, physical therapy will allow most patients to return to their normal lifestyle.
”You’ve just got to have the mindset of knowing that it’s going to get better and you’re going to get back to where you were before,” she says. “it just might be a little tough for a little bit, but they’re here to help you get through it.”
What are the Results of Bone Cyst Removal?
With the help of Dr. Jones and the team at Orlando Orthopaedic Center, Amber is now able to return to the gym and live the physically active life she wants. She, like many patients, was able to return to her normal lifestyle after the cyst has been successfully removed.
“Everyone is here for you and to get you back in your active lifestyle, whatever that may be,” she says. “They always took great care of me and let me know what was going on and where we were at. If anything I feel stronger and better than ever.”