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 large growths.
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
strokeRecent spinal cord injury, especially within the past 1-4 monthsHip surgery or other joint surgeryBurnsLong period of immobilityJoint infectionFracturesSome tendon injuries
Symptoms vary based on the severity and site of the bone growth. HO may cause: Decreased range of motionSwelling or redness to joint(s)PainFever
You will be asked 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.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with: Blood testsUrine tests
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: Bone scanX-rayMRI scanComputerized tomography
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: Non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain Bisphosphonates to prevent the loss of bone
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 preventive measures, which are similar to treatments.
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Spinal cord injury—InfoSheet #12. Spinal Cord Injury Information Network website. Available at:
http://images.main.uab.edu/spinalcord/pdffiles/info-12.pdf. Published June 1997. Accessed May 9, 2016.
Zychowicz ME. Pathophysiology of heterotopic ossification. Orthop Nurs. 2013;32(3):173-177.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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