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oral peripheral giant cell granuloma

Thursday 23 November 2006


Definition: Oral peripheral giant cell granuloma (OPGCG) is a relatively frequent benign reactive lesion of the oral cavity, originating from the periosteum or periodontal membrane following local irritation or chronic trauma.

It must not be confound with the "peripheral giant cell reparative granuloma" of bone (peripheral GCRG).

OPGCG manifests as a red-purple nodule located in the region of the gums or edentulous alveolar margins, fundamentally in the lower jaw. The lesion can develop at any age, though it is more common between the fifth and sixth decades of life, and shows a slight female predilection.

PGCG is a soft tissue lesion that very rarely affects the underlying bone, though the latter may suffer superficial erosion.

Peripheral giant cell granuloma is, for all practical purposes, a site-specific variant of pyogenic granuloma embedded with osteoclast-like multinucleated giant cells and arising exclusively from the periodontal ligament enclosing the root of a tooth. This unique origin, of course, means that such a lesion can only be found within or upon the gingiva or alveolar ridge, no other site is acceptable.

Called variously giant cell reparative granuloma, osteoclastoma, giant cell epulis, and myeloid epulis, this lesion was first reported as fungus flesh in 1848. Almost half of all cases have lesional cells containing surface receptors for estrogen and this has led to speculation that some peripheral giant cell granulomas are responsive to hormonal influences.


- Intact or ulcerated surface epithelium cover
- benign proliferation of granulation-like tissue that supports numerous benign multinucleated giant cells
- Abundant extravasated deposits of hemosiderin
- Spicules of woven or lamellar bone (35%)

Clinical features

The usual age at diagnosis is the fourth through sixth decades, but there is no marked age predilection. More than 60% of cases occur in females and this female predilection is more pronounced in the older age groups.

Individual lesions are nodular and pedunculated, frequently with an ulcerated surface, and frequently with a red, brown or bluish hue (Figures 1 & 2).

Generally larger than pyogenic granuloma, the lesion may exceed 4 cm. in size, but most lesions remain less than 2 cm. in diameter.

Any alveolar region may be affected and radiographs may show either a saucerization of underlying bone, periodontitis of underlying tissues, or an isthmus of soft tissue connecting to an intraosseous central giant cell granuloma.


The peripheral giant cell granuloma is comprised of an unencapsulated aggregation of rather primitive but uniform mesenchymal cells with oval, pale nuclei and with a moderate amount of eosinophilic cytoplasm.

Mitotic activity is not unusual in the lesion and may even be pronounced in lesions developing in children and adolescents. Mitotic activity within the giant cells is, however, not seen and if present should be considered to be a sign of sarcomatous change.

Stromal cells may be spindled with a background of collagenic fibers, or may be rounded with a less fibrotic background. There may be occasional chronic inflammatory cells admixed with the mesenchymal cells or within surrounding fibrovascular tissues.

A thin band of routine fibrovascular tissue separates the lesion from the overlying epithelium, often with dilated veins and capillaries. When surface ulceration is present, the ulcer bed consists of routine fibrinoid necrotic debris over granulation tissue.

Admixed throughout the stroma are numerous osteoclast-like multinucleated giant cells containing varying numbers of pale vesicular nuclei similar to those within the surrounding stromal cells.

These cells have eosinophilic cytoplasm, which electron microscopy has shown to contain large numbers of mitochondria. Immunohistochemistry has shown the giant cells to be only slightly different from true osteoclasts.

The origin of the multinucleated cells is still unknown, but they are assumed to arise from syncytial fusion of mononuclear preosteoclasts of bone marrow origin.

Blood vessels within the lesional stroma show plump endothelial cell nuclei and scattered extravasation of erythrocytes is commonly seen. Hemosiderin deposition may be seen in areas of old hemorrhage. Metaplastic or osteoblastic new bone formation may be seen, usually in the lower third of the lesion. Dystrophic calcification may be present as well.

Occasional lesions show an admixture of tissue types compatible with peripheral giant cell granuloma, peripheral ossifying fibroma and pyogenic granuloma, presumably because of the common pathoetiology of these lesions. Such lesions are traditionally diagnosed according to the dominant tissue type.

Differential diagnosis


Peripheral giant cell granuloma is treated by conservative surgical excision followed by curettage of any underlying bony defect and careful scaling and root planing of associated teeth. A recurrence rate of 10% or more has been reported, hence, re-excision may be necessary.

Very large or recurring lesions may represent brown tumors of hyperparathyroidism and will require treatment of the underlying endocrine dysfunction prior to surgical removal.

See also

- giant cell epulis
- peripheral giant cell reparative granuloma of bone


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- Whitaker SB, Bouquot JE. Identification and semi-quantification of estrogen and progesterone receptors in peripheral giant cell lesions of the jaws. J Perio 1994; 65:280-283.

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