Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva is a rare heritable disorder of connective tissue characterized by progressive heterotopic ossification of soft tissues and by congenital malformation of the great toes. Limb swelling has also been noted, yet little is known about this complication of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. To determine the prevalence of limb swelling in this condition, the authors reviewed detailed medical records on 74 patients (25 males, 49 females; age range, 1-49 years) who had a documented history of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. The study population included more than 90% of all patients known to have fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva in the United States. Acute swelling of the limbs occurred in association with flareups of the condition in nearly all cases. Acute swelling in the upper limbs was focal and nodular in contrast to acute swelling in the lower limbs, which was more diffuse. Acute swelling in the upper limbs occurred in all 74 patients whereas acute swelling in the lower limbs occurred in 47 of the 74 patients (64%). Two of the 74 patients who had acute swelling in the lower limbs (4%) had a documented episode of deep vein thrombophlebitis. Chronic swelling in the upper limbs occurred in 9 of the 74 patients (12%) and was not seen before the age of 12 years. Chronic swelling in the lower limbs occurred in 36 of the 74 patients (49%) and was not seen before the age of 9 years. The intense angiogenesis and edema seen on histopathologic evaluation of preosseous fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva lesions may play a role in the pathogenesis of the limb swelling. The data show an age related prevalence of limb swelling in fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva and suggest a model for understanding the complex pathways leading to limb swelling in this disorder.