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Heterotopic Ossification After a Brain Injury

Abnormal Bone Growth

Heterotopic ossification, or abnormal bone growth, is a severe complication that might develop following a traumatic brain injury. According to a recently published research, about 20 percent of patients who suffer an injury of their central nervous system will develop some degree of abnormal bone formation. This can lead to several clinical problems, which can include motor and sensory functions, and overall lower quality of life. Because of this, it is important for everyone to understand what heterotopic ossification is, the problems that accompany this disorder, and how it is treated.

What is Heterotopic Ossification?

In this disorder, bony tissue starts to grow and develop outside of the usual skeletal locations. In some situations, bone growth is needed. Examples of proper bone formation include surgeries involving the bones, such as hip replacements and femur fracture repairs. However, a bone overgrowth can occur following a devastating head injury.

Specifically referred to as neurogenic heterotopic ossification, this disorder follows severe impacts on the central nervous system. Gradually, bony overgrowth develops around the major joints throughout the body. This can include the hips, the elbows, the shoulders, the knees, and more. Individuals who have this condition start to develop chronic pain in and around their joints due to the extra bone. This additional bony tissue can cause them to have trouble moving their joints, impacting their mobility, and range of motion. Finally, there are some severe medical problems that can stem from heterotopic ossification.

Significant Medical Problems Following this Disorder

A handful of complications that people might notice could include:

  • Pressure Ulcers: Because individuals have trouble moving, they are prone to developing bedsores, which are called pressure ulcers. If someone cannot move well, the pressure is applied to a single location on the body. This can cause skin and tissue breakdown, which can lead to chronic pain and severe infections.
  • Urinary Tract Infections: Individuals with heterotopic ossification also have much higher rates of urinary tract infection. Symptoms of a UTI include blood in the urine and pain when using the bathroom. If not treated quickly, a UTI can expand to systemic infection and can even be life-threatening.

Watch YouTube Video: Heterotopic Ossification Research. In the short video below, Navy Commander Jonathan Forsberg discusses his research on heterotopic ossification in soft tissue.

How is Heterotopic Ossification Treated?

This complication can lead to problems as someone is recovering from a head injury. There are several treatment options available. These include:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications: NSAIDs such as Tylenol and Motrin play a crucial role in managing the symptoms and complications of heterotopic ossification. These are used to manage pain in the joints and tissue swelling. If the swelling is controlled, people have an easier time moving their joints.
  • Radiation: Severe forms of heterotopic ossification can be treated with radiation. This targets bone cells that are rapidly dividing, helping to slow the growth of bony tissue.
  • Surgery: Once bony overgrowth has slowed or stopped, the excess tissue can be removed via surgery. Removal of unnecessary bone tissue around the joints can help someone’s quality of life improve.

Heterotopic ossification can pose major problems for someone who is recovering from a severe injury of the neurologic system. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and treatment, this complication can be controlled.

Placerville Brain Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Placerville Brain Injury Lawyer. Heterotopic ossification is a major complication following a brain injury. If someone you know has sustained a brain injury due to the negligence of another person or entity, please contact me today at (530) 392-9400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly legal advice.

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