Comparison of development of heterotopic ossification in injured us and UK Armed Services personnel with combat-related amputations: Preliminary findings and hypotheses regarding causality

Kate V. Brown, Shresth Dharm-Datta, B. Kyle Potter, John Etherington, Alan Mistlin, Joseph R. Hsu, Jon C. Clasper

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Background: Recent reports have documented the rate of heterotopic ossification (HO) formation in the residual limbs of combat-related amputees from the US Armed Forces injured in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Final amputation level within the zone of injury and blast as the mechanism of injury were identified as possible risk factors for the occurrence and grade of HO. There has been no previous description of HO in combat-related amputees from the UK service personnel. The purpose of this study was to examine potential differences in the prevalence of HO between UK and US Allied Forces, with particular attention to these risk factors, patient exposures, and any treatment differences between these two groups. Methods: We reviewed the medical records and radiographs of 35 combat-related amputations from the UK and contrasted them with 213 previously reported amputations in US military personnel. We evaluated prevalence and severity of residual limb HO, Injury Severity Score (ISS), the mechanism and zone of injury, type and level of amputation, number of debridements, method of wound irrigation, presence of severe head injury and/or burns injury, use of topical negative pressure therapy and pulse lavage, number of days until wound closure, type of closure, and subsequent infections. All patients had a minimum of 2-month posthospital discharge radiographic follow-up. Comparisons were made using Fisher's exact, one-way analysis of variance, and χ analyses. Results: There was no significant difference in either the overall prevalence of HO or the prevalence of moderate to severe HO in the two populations. Twenty of 35 (57.1%) limbs in the UK amputations developed HO compared with 134 of 213 (63%) in the US amputations (p > 0.05). The UK amputations had 12 cases (34.3%) of moderate to severe HO compared with 72 cases (33.8%) in the US amputations (p > 0.05). However, there was a significant difference in the number of UK amputations 0 of 20 (0%) versus the number of US amputations 25 of 134 (12%; p = 0.04), which required excision of symptomatic lesions. There was a significant association in the development of HO in UK personnel with the use of topical negative pressure treatment (p = 0.05) and increasing ISS scores (p = 0.04) and in the development of moderate to severe HO with increasing ISS (p = 0.006) and severe HI (p = 0.04). Unlike in the previous report, no significant association was found in UK personnel between any of the remaining hypothesized risk factors and either the presence or grade of HO. Conclusions: Although no difference was identified in the overall prevalence of HO, there are inconsistencies in the possible underlying causes of HO between the two cohorts. Further research is required in an ongoing effort to determine a causal relationship between treatment and subsequent HO formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S116-S122
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Amputation level
  • Blast
  • Heterotopic ossification
  • Patient exposure
  • Risk factors


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