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Iowa Orthop J. 1996; 16: 126–134.
PMCID: PMC2378151

Mastocytosis presenting as a skeletal disorder.


Mastocytosis is a rare disease of mast-cell proliferation with involvement of the reticuloendothelial systems including skin, bone, gastrointestinal tract, liver, lungs, spleen, and lymph nodes. Systemic mastocytosis is characterized by a combination of symptoms that relate to the mast cells' release of vasoactive substances, such as histamine. These symptoms include urticaria pigmentosa, flushing, syncope with hypotension, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and occasional bronchospasm. The diagnosis of mastocytosis is typically based on the presence of the characteristic extraosseus manifestations. A well recognized roentgenographic feature seen in 70-75% of patients with mastocytosis is diffuse osteolysis and osteosclerosis, affecting primarily the axial skeleton and the ends of the long bones. Rarely, the bony involvement consists of generalized osteoporosis, which may lead to pathologic fracture, or solitary lesions (mastocytomas) which may cause symptoms of localized pain. Four patients with previously diagnosed systemic mastocytosis had unusual skeletal lesions. Clinical and laboratory evaluation of these patients eventually led to the correct diagnosis of systemic mastocytosis. We report these four cases to emphasize the need for thorough evaluation of unusual musculoskeletal findings in association with extraosseus symptoms that are characteristic of mastocytosis. Knowledge of a wide differential diagnosis of unusual skeletal lesions should include systemic mastosytosis.

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