Ollier's disease

Ollier's disease is also called enchondromatosis (say en-kond-dro-ma-to-sis). It is a very rare bone disease which occurs in one in every 100,000 people.

In this condition, areas of the bone are made of something called dense cartilage instead of proper bone. Cartilage is a special type of tissue found in lots of areas of the body. As a baby, almost all of all the bones are mainly cartilage. But as a child grows up, the cartilage changes to bone.

By the time a young person is fully grown, the only cartilage that is supposed to be left is at the ends of the bones that make up the joints.

In Ollier's disease, something goes wrong with this process and small parts of this cartilage ‘forgets’ that it should turn into bone. Nobody knows exactly why this happens.

Who can get Ollier's disease?

It can affect girls and boys of any age but most cases are identified in young people aged between ten and 20.

It can affect any of the bones but it often affects the long bones of the legs and the small bones in hands or feet.

What are the key warning signs?

Some people with Ollier's disease have no symptoms at all. But common symptoms include an aching pain that won't go away or a swelling or lump that makes the bone look a funny shape.

Often the bone with a lot of cartilage in it grows more slowly and so sometimes one leg or arm is shorter than the other.

Sometimes one side of the bone grows more slowly than the other. Again, this means the bone may look a funny shape and your leg or arm might seem a little bent or crooked.

How is it normally diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose Ollier's disease with an X-ray.

How is it treated?

There are different ways to treat Ollier's disease. It will always depend on what symptoms a young person has, what the doctor finds when they examine the young person and what the X-ray looks like.
Treatment will be influenced by things like how old the patient is, their general health and their medical history.

Treatment may include surgery to straighten a bone that is crooked, to support a bone that is weak or to fix a bone if it has broken.

If a young person's legs are a different length then surgery may also be needed to stop this difference getting any worse. They could also have a different kind of surgery to make you legs the same length.

Many people do not have any immediate treatment because often the doctor needs to watch your condition for a while to see how it is developing.

Can it be prevented?

Doctors do not know what causes this disease to happen so there is nothing to prevent it happening.

When should I seek medical help?

If you have any pains or any lumps or unusual growths or swellings, you should go and visit your doctor.

What about my future health?

With treatment, your doctor can help control the growth of your cartilage bones.

Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: 5 January 2009


Please note this is a generic GOSH information sheet so should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. If you have specific questions about how this relates to your child, please ask your doctor.