Clinical Research

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 470, Issue 6, pp 1749-1754

First online:

Physeal Distraction for Joint Preservation in Malignant Metaphyseal Bone Tumors in Children

  • Michael BetzAffiliated withUniversity of Zurich, Balgrist Email author 
  • , Charles E. DumontAffiliated withOrthopädie Zentrum Zürich
  • , Bruno FuchsAffiliated withUniversity of Zurich, Balgrist
  • , G. Ulrich ExnerAffiliated withOrthopädie Zentrum Zürich

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Physeal distraction facilitates metaphyseal bone tumor resection in children and preserves the adjacent joint. The technique was first described by Cañadell. Tumor resection procedures allowing limb-sparing reconstruction have been used increasingly in recent years without compromising oncologic principles.


We report our results with Cañadell’s technique by assessing tumor control, functional outcome, and complications.


Six consecutive children with primary malignant metaphyseal bone tumors underwent physeal distraction as a part of tumor resection. Tumor location was the distal femur in four patients, the proximal humerus in one patient, and the proximal tibia in one patient. The functional outcome was evaluated after a minimum of 18 months (median, 62 months; range, 18–136 months) using the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society (MSTS) score and the Toronto Extremity Salvage Score (TESS).


At latest followup, five patients were alive and disease-free and one had died from metastatic disease. All tumor resections resulted in local control; there were no local recurrencies. The mean MSTS score was 79% (range, 53%–97%) and corresponding mean TESS was 83% (range, 71%–92%). In one case, postoperative infection required amputation of the proximal lower leg. All physeal distractions were successful except for one patient in whom distraction resulted in rupturing into the tumor. This situation was salvaged by transepiphyseal resection.


We consider Cañadell’s technique a useful tool in the armamentarium to treat children with malignant tumors that are in close proximity to an open physis.

Level of Evidence

Level IV, therapeutic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.