Heterotopic OssificationEn Español (Spanish Version)
Heterotopic ossification (HO) is the growth of bone in abnormal places like soft tissue. It can occur anywhere in the body. The hip, knees, shoulders and elbows are the most common locations. This condition can vary from minor to heavy growth.
Treatment involves physical therapy, medications, and in some cases, surgery.
The exact cause of HO is unknown. There may be a genetic link to the development of this condition.
Factors that may increase your chance of developing HO include:
Traumatic brain injury or
- Recent spinal cord injury, especially within the past 1-4 months
- Hip surgery or other joint surgery
- Long period of immobility
- Joint infection
- Trauma to muscle or soft tissue
Symptoms vary based on the severity and site of the bone growth. HO may cause:
- Decreased range of motion
- Swelling or redness to joint(s)
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. An orthopedic doctor focuses solely on problems of the bones and joints.
Tests may include the following:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Bone scan
—may only be able to detect abnormal bone in later phases of the disease
X-ray of Pelvic Repair
HO may not show up on x-ray until later stages.
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Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options vary based on the scope of the disease, and include the following:
Therapy is an important part of treatment.
Range of motion
exercises will help to maintain mobility. It can also keep the disease from getting worse. Therapy may also include some stretching and strength training.
Your doctor may prescribe:
- Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
is used to prevent abnormal bone growth, mainly after hip surgery.
Surgery may be used to remove the abnormal bone and increase range of motion. Radiation and medications are often
given after surgery, since the disease can recur.
HO is not well understood. If you have any of the risk factors above, talk to your doctor about any symptoms you may have. Discuss whether you need to take preventative measures.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Spinal Cord Injury Information Network
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
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Pape HC, Marsh S, Morley JR, Krettek C, Giannoudis PV. Current concepts in the development of heterotopic ossification.
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 2004;86(6):783-7.
Spinal cord injury—InfoSheet #12. Spinal Cord Injury Information Network website. Available at:
http://images.main.uab.edu/spinalcord/pdffiles/info-12.pdf. Accessed August 22, 2013.
Zychowicz ME. Pathophysiology of heterotopic ossification. Orthop Nurs. 2013;32(3):173-177.
Last Reviewed June 2013