System setup to deliver air impact forces to a sheep limb: Preparation for model development of blast-related heterotopic ossification

Dustin L. Williams*, Richard T. Epperson, Nicholas B. Taylor, Mattias B. Nielsen, Brooke S. Kawaguchi, David L. Rothberg, Paul F. Pasquina, Brad M. Isaacson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Heterotopic ossification (HO) is a significant complication for wounded warriors with traumatic limb loss. Although this pathologic condition negatively impacts the general population, ectopic bone has been observed with higher frequency for service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan due to blast injuries. Several factors, including a traumatic insult, bioburden, tourniquet and wound vacuum usage, and bone fractures or fragments have been associated with increased HO for service members. A large combat-relevant animal model is needed to further understand ectopic bone etiology and develop new pragmatic solutions for reducing HO formation and recurrence. Objective: This study outlines the optimization of a blast system that may be used to simulate combat-relevant trauma for HO and replicate percussion blast experienced in theater. Methods: We tested the repeatability and reproducibility of an air impact device (AID) at various pressure settings and compared it with a model of blunt force trauma for HO induction. Furthermore, we assessed the ability of the higher-power air delivery system to injure host tissue, displace metal particulate, and disperse bone chips in cadaveric sheep limbs. Results: Data demonstrated that the air delivery setup generated battlefield-relevant blast forces. When the AID was charged to 40, 80, and 100 psi, the outputs were 229 (SD 13) N, 778 (SD 50) N, and 1085 (SD 114) N, respectively, compared with the blunt force model which proposed only 168 (SD 11) N. For the 100-psi AID setup, the force equaled a 5.8-kg charge weight of trinitrotoluene at a standoff distance of approximately 2.62 m, which would replicate a dismounted improvised explosive device blast in theater. Dispersion data showed that the delivery system would have the ability to cause host tissue trauma and effectively disperse metal particulate and host bone chips in local musculature compared with the standard blunt force model (13 mm vs 2 mm). Conclusions: Our data showed that a high-pressure AID was repeatable or reproducible, had the ability to function as a simulated battlefield blast that can model military HO scenarios, and will allow for factors including blast trauma to translate toward a large animal model.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12107
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Air
  • Blast
  • Heterotopic ossification
  • Limb
  • Sheep


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