How is osteosarcoma treated?

Updated: Jul 01, 2020
  • Author: Charles T Mehlman, DO, MPH; Chief Editor: Omohodion (Odion) Binitie, MD  more...
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Before the use of chemotherapy (which began in the 1970s), osteosarcoma was treated primarily with surgical resection (usually amputation). [32]  Despite such good local control, more than 80% of patients subsequently developed recurrent disease that typically presented as pulmonary metastases. The high recurrence rate indicates that most patients have micrometastatic disease at the time of diagnosis. Therefore, the use of adjuvant (postoperative) systemic chemotherapy is critical for the treatment of patients with osteosarcoma. [33]

The orthopedic surgeon is of paramount importance in the care of patients with osteosarcoma. Often, patients thought to have osteosarcoma are referred to the orthopedic surgeon first to make the diagnosis. Moreover, because osteosarcomas are not particularly responsive to radiotherapy, surgery is the only option for definitive tumor removal (local control). [34]

In addition, an oncologic type of total joint prosthesis or complex bone reconstruction may be required following surgical resection. Therefore, close involvement of the orthopedic surgeon with the medical oncologist at the time of diagnosis, as well as during and after chemotherapy, is critical

The two main procedures performed by orthopedic surgeons in patients with osteosarcoma are biopsy and wide resection. Neither of these procedures should be undertaken unless complete tumor staging has been completed preoperatively. Such staging would typically include (but would not be limited to) the following (see Imaging Studies):

  • Plain radiography of the involved bone, including the joint above and the joint below the affected region
  • Total-body bone scanning
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the primary tumor area to include the entire bone of origin
  • Computed tomography (CT) of the lungs

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