Background: Giant cell tumors (GCTs) of bone often are treated with curettage, adjuvant therapy, and cementation. Phenol is a commonly used adjuvant associated with local control rates ranging from 9% to 25%. However, it is corrosive to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Ethanol is readily available and does not cause chemical burns on contact, but it is unclear whether ethanol can achieve similar local control rates as phenol for treating GCTs. Questions/purposes: We evaluated (1) the recurrence rate and recurrence-free Kaplan-Meier survival function, (2) Musculoskeletal Tumor Society (MSTS) functional score (1993 version), and (3) complications of two groups of patients with GCTs treated with extensive curettage, local adjuvant therapy with phenol or ethanol, and cement reconstruction, to determine if ethanol was a reasonable alternative to phenol. Patients and Methods: We retrospectively reviewed all 26 patients with GCTs in the long bones of extremities treated with curettage, high-speed burring, phenolization, and cementation between May 1995 and November 2001, and 35 patients treated with the same protocol, except phenol was replaced with 95% ethanol, between November 2001 and November 2007. The recurrence rates, Kaplan-Meier recurrence-free survival curves, and MSTS functional scores of these two treatment groups were compared with Fishers exact test, Tarone-Ware test, and Mann-Whitney U test, respectively. The minimum followup was 36 months (mean, 58 months; range, 36-156 months). Results: Local recurrence rates were similar in the two groups: 11% in the ethanol group and 12% in the phenol group. The survival curves (using local recurrence as an endpoint) of the two groups were similar. The mean MSTS functional score was 27.3 (91%) for the ethanol group and 26.9 (90%) for the phenol group. Conclusions: Ethanol is a reasonable alternative to phenol when adjuvant therapy is considered in the treatment of GCTs of long bones. Level of Evidence: Level III, therapeutic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
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