Heterotopic ossification occurs when the body begins to grow bone in an area of soft tissue where there is usually no bone. This is most common in a joint, often the elbow or hip. There is no known definitive cause of heterotopic ossification or any indication of what triggers this abnormal bone growth to occur in certain populations.
Those most affected by heterotopic ossification include people who suffer injuries that affect the central nervous system and those with brain injuries. Infants with birth injuries to the brain may suffer heterotopic ossification growths.
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Perinatal Brain Damage and Heterotopic Ossification
There is some proof of a significant link between heterotopic ossification and those who suffered traumatic brain injuries. This likely explains the increased risk of these bony growths in the joints of children with cerebral palsy.
While it is not as common as a coexisting condition like epilepsy or intellectual disability, heterotopic ossification is a relatively common issue faced by children with cerebral palsy. According to a study in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology that examined the medical records of about 200 children with a cerebral palsy diagnosis, they found that more than 15% also had heterotopic ossification.
According to this study, 16% of the patients had both cerebral palsy and heterotopic ossification. The factors that appeared to increase the risk for heterotopic ossification include:
- Those who had a quadriplegic (all four limbs involved) type of cerebral palsy.
- Those who could not walk unassisted.
- Those who underwent a previous capsular release (a minimally-invasive shoulder surgery).
- Those who had previous infections, often following a procedure.
- Those who underwent previous hip operations.
In general, they found that the children most affected by cerebral palsy are also the most at-risk of heterotopic ossification. In fact, according to this study, children who have a quadriplegic type of cerebral palsy are 17.5 times more likely to have heterotopic ossification than a child with a hemiplegic type of cerebral palsy.
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Identifying Signs and Symptoms and Getting a Heterotopic Ossification Diagnosis
Pain is often the first sign of a problem when bone begins to grow into soft tissue. These growths are most common in the hip and elbow but can occur almost anywhere. Other symptoms can include:
- Swelling in the area
- Joint tenderness
- Skin redness in the area
These symptoms are similar to several other conditions, including cellulitis, osteomyelitis, or thrombophlebitis. This means misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis could occur. Because your child is at an increased risk due to their cerebral palsy, your doctor should order a bone scan or other medical imaging to look for the area of inappropriate bone growth to confirm their diagnosis.
Treating Heterotopic Ossification
In some cases, surgical intervention is necessary to remove the bony growth and restore the full function of an affected joint. When caught early, though, there are other options for the general treatment of heterotopic ossification. This includes:
- Physiotherapy to prevent joint involvement
- Warm compression to reduce pain and swelling during development
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (often indomethacin), a diphosphonate, and/or local radiation therapy
When and if surgery is necessary depends on several factors. This includes how much the swelling and growth interferes with the person’s functional capacity, or if the growth causes significant cosmetic concern. Unfortunately, heterotopic ossification can recur after surgery, either in the same area or in another area of the body.
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Brain Damage Lawsuits
Heterotopic ossification is just one of the dozens of co-existing conditions and complications that can occur in children with cerebral palsy. If your child suffered a preventable birth injury and now has cerebral palsy or another type of perinatal brain damage, your family may be eligible to pursue a medical malpractice case against the doctor or hospital.
You should discuss your legal rights and options with an attorney who handles birth injury cases in your state. Your attorney will be able to:
- Identify all potentially liable parties.
- Explain state laws and deadlines that could affect your case.
- Collect evidence to prove your child suffered a preventable birth injury.
- Enlist the help of medical expert witnesses to build a case against the doctor.
- Prove your expenses and losses related to your child’s birth injury.
- Calculate the ongoing and future care costs related to your child’s brain injury.
- File a claim and attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
- Take your medical malpractice case to court in your state, if necessary.
If your attorney reaches a settlement or gets a verdict in your favor in court, your family will be eligible for damages. This could include:
- Current and future medical care costs
- Ongoing care costs
- Mobility equipment and assistive devices
- Physical, occupational, and other types of therapy
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to your child’s condition and care
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
To get started, enlist the help of a birth injury medical malpractice attorney near you today.
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The Birth Injury Lawyers Group can connect your family with a medical malpractice attorney who takes on birth injury cases near you. Call now at 1-800-222-9529, and you could be discussing your case with a local attorney today.