What is heterotopic ossification (HO)?

Heterotopic ossification, commonly called HO is abnormal growth of new bone in the soft tissues surrounding a joint or within a muscle or tendon. The HO is not clearly understood, but it may occur in patients with brain injury, spinal cord injury, and complex fractures. The most common locations for HO are the elbows, hips, and knees. When HO develops, new bone growth restricts movement and causes pain in the joints.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of HO?

Symptoms include elbow or knee joints that have restricted range of motion or fixed in a bent position, swelling, warmth, and pain surrounding the joint affected. Early detection is important. This is done through a bone scan.

Heterotopic Ossification (English and Spanish)
From Craig Hospital
Information on what you may see, how HO is diagnosed, and ways to help.

How can I help my loved one if they have HO?

HO cannot be resolved by stretching alone but stretching is needed to maintain the available the range of motion available. Often medications, such as NSAIDs, can be used to treat pain and swelling. Sometimes bisphosphonate medications, which are usually given for osteoporosis, can decrease the rate of bone growth. In severe cases, radiation therapy may help prevent future bone growth, and surgery can be done to remove the bone.