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Heterotopic Ossification

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention


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.


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

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


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


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 tests
  • Urine tests

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

X-ray of Pelvic Repair

repiared pelvis x-ray

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


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.


Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain
  • Bisphosphonates to prevent the loss of bone

Radiation Therapy

Radiation 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.





  • Black DL, Smith JD, Dalziel RE, Young DA, Shimmin A. Incidence of heterotopic ossification after hip resurfacing. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surg. 2007;77:642-647.
  • 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: Published June 1997. Accessed June 29, 2015.
  • Zychowicz ME. Pathophysiology of heterotopic ossification. Orthop Nurs. 2013;32(3):173-177.

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