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Definition  

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.

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Causes  

The exact cause of HO is unknown. There may be a genetic link to the development of this condition.

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Risk Factors  

Factors that may increase your chance of developing HO include:

  • Traumatic brain injury or stroke
  • Recent spinal cord injury, especially within the past 1-4 months
  • Hip surgery or other joint surgery
  • Burns
  • Long period of immobility
  • Joint infection
  • Trauma to muscle or soft tissue
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Symptoms  

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)
  • Pain
  • Fever
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X-ray of Pelvic Repair  
repiared pelvis x-ray

HO may not show up on x-ray until later stages.

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Diagnosis  

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
  • X-ray —may only be able to detect abnormal bone in later phases of the disease
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Treatment  

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options vary based on the scope of the disease, and include the following:

Physical Therapy  

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.

Medications  

Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Bisphosphonates

Radiation Therapy  

Radiation is used to prevent abnormal bone growth, mainly after hip surgery.

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.

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Prevention  

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.