Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Heterotopic Ossification

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Heterotopic Ossification



Heterotopic ossification (HO) is the growth of bone in places where it is not supposed to be. It can happen anywhere in the body. The hip, knees, shoulders, and elbows are the most common places. Growths can be small or large.

HO can lead to pain and movement problems. Treatment can improve outcomes.


The cause of HO is not known. It may be due to genes or trauma.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of HO are:

  • Traumatic brain injury or stroke
  • Recent spinal cord injury
  • Hip surgery or other joint surgery
  • Burns
  • Long period of inactivity
  • Joint infection
  • Fractures
  • Some tendon injuries


The problems a person has depends on how serious HO is. It also depends on where there is bone growth. Problems may be:

  • Poor range of motion
  • Joint swelling or redness
  • Pain
  • Fever


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The person may be sent to a specialist.

Tests may include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Tests on fluids from the skin or cysts
  • Imaging tests, such as:

HO is diagnosed based on test results.

X-ray of Pelvic Repair.

HO may happen after joint surgery.

repiared pelvis x-rayhttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=77477747exh59781_105433_1.jpgexh59781NULLjpgrepiared pelvis x-rayNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\exh59781_105433_1.jpgNULL68NULL2008-12-16317400Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The level of care needed depends on how serious HO is. Options are:

  • Physical therapy to increase strength, flexibility, and range of motion—depending on the location of the problem
  • Medicines to:
    • Ease swelling and pain
    • Prevent the bone loss
    • Treat flare-ups of HO
  • Radiation therapy to prevent abnormal bone growth
  • Surgery to remove abnormal bone


There are no known guidelines to prevent HO.





  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/fibrodysplasia-ossificans-progressiva.
  • Heterotrophic ossification. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22596-heterotopic-ossification.
  • Heterotopic ossification. Craig Hospital website. Available at: https://craighospital.org/resources/heterotopic-ossification.
  • Spinal cord injury. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/spinal-cord-injury.


  • Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.