Heterotopic ossification in high-energy wartime extremity injuries: prevalence and risk factors

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2009 May;91(5):1084-91. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.H.00792.


Background: Heterotopic ossification in the extremities remains a common complication in the setting of high-energy wartime trauma, particularly in blast-injured amputees and in those in whom the definitive amputation was performed within the zone of injury. The purposes of this cohort study were to report the experience of one major military medical center with high-energy wartime extremity wounds, to define the prevalence of heterotopic ossification in these patients, and to explore the relationship between heterotopic ossification and other potential independent predictors.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the records and radiographs of all combat-wounded patients admitted to this institution between March 1, 2003, and December 31, 2006. Patients with a minimum of two months of radiographic follow-up who underwent at least one orthopaedic procedure on an extremity constituted our study group; those who underwent at least one orthopaedic procedure but had not had heterotopic ossification develop constituted the control group. Variables recorded for each study subject included age and sex, location and mechanism of injury, method(s) of fracture fixation, number of débridement procedures, duration of negative pressure therapy, location of heterotopic ossification, presence and severity of traumatic brain injury, and Injury Severity Scores.

Results: During the study period, 1213 war-wounded patients were admitted. Of those patients, 243 (157 in the heterotopic ossification group and eighty-six controls) met the inclusion criteria. The observed rate of heterotopic ossification was 64.6%. A significant relationship was detected between heterotopic ossification and the presence (p = 0.006) and severity (p = 0.003) of a traumatic brain injury. Risk factors for the development of heterotopic ossification were found to be an age of less than thirty years (p = 0.007, odds ratio = 3.0), an amputation (p = 0.048, odds ratio = 2.9), multiple extremity injuries (p = 0.002, odds ratio = 3.9), and an Injury Severity Score of >or=16 (p = 0.02, odds ratio = 2.2).

Conclusions: The prevalence of heterotopic ossification in war-wounded patients is higher than that in civilian trauma. Although trends associated with local wound conditions were identified, the risk factors for the development of heterotopic ossification found in this study suggest that systemic causes predominate.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Amputation, Surgical
  • Arm Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Cohort Studies
  • Extremities / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Leg Injuries / complications
  • Middle Aged
  • Ossification, Heterotopic / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Warfare