Heterotrophic Ossification

Heterotrophic ossification (HO) happens when bone forms in an unnatural location, such as in soft tissue or muscle. These changes may occur approximately three months after TBI. Bone formation in these locations may cause pain or inability to move the joints in full ranges of motion. This typically occurs around the elbows, knees, and hips.

The cause of HO is unknown, but it may be due to poor circulation to the muscles and soft tissues due to trauma or lack of movement (or inactivity).

What might you see?

  • Swelling, warmth, limited range of motion or mobility, and/or pain in soft tissue areas or a muscle

How can you help?

  • Rest the arm or leg where the pain is. Ask for a physical or occupational therapist to work with your family member to decrease discomfort, maintain range of motion, and prevent loss of function.
  • A physician will perform a workup, which may include a blood test and x-ray imaging of the affected body area. Medications may be useful to slow or stop the growth of the bone formation. Surgery may be performed to remove abnormal bone growth in severe cases.