Developing a combat-relevant translatable large animal model of heterotopic ossification

Richard T. Epperson*, Brad M. Isaacson, David L. Rothberg, Raymond E. Olsen, Brooke Kawaguchi, John M. Maxwell, Mary Dickerson, Paul F. Pasquina, John Shero, Dustin L. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Heterotopic ossification (HO) refers to ectopic bone formation, typically in residual limbs following trauma and injury. A review of injuries from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) indicated that approximately 70% of war wounds involved the musculoskeletal system, largely in part from the use of improvised explosive devices (IED) and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG). HO is reported to occur in approximately 63%–65% of wounded warriors from OIF and OEF. Symptomatic HO may delay rehabilitation regimens since it often requires modifications to prosthetic limb componentry and socket size. There is limited evidence indicating a mechanism for preventing HO. This may be due to inadequate models, which do not produce HO bone structure that is morphologically similar to HO samples obtained from wounded warfighters injured in theatre. We hypothesized that using a high-power blast of air (shockwave) and simulated battlefield trauma (i.e. bone damage, tourniquet, bacteria, negative pressure wound therapy) in a large animal model, HO would form and have similar morphology to ectopic bone observed in clinical samples. Initial radiographic and micro-computed tomography (CT) data demonstrated ectopic bone growth in sheep 24 weeks post-procedure. Advanced histological and backscatter electron (BSE) analyses showed that 5 out of 8 (63%) sheep produced HO with similar morphology to clinical samples. We conclude that not all ectopic bone observed by radiograph or micro-CT in animal models is HO. Advanced histological and BSE analyses may improve confirmation of HO presence and morphology, which we demonstrated can be produced in a large animal model.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101127
JournalBone Reports
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Ectopic bone
  • Heterotopic ossification
  • Histology
  • Large animal model
  • Traumatic HO


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