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J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2010 Dec;19(8):1269-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2010.05.029. Epub 2010 Sep 18.

Treatment of heterotopic ossification of the elbow following burn injury: recommendations for surgical excision and perioperative prophylaxis using radiation therapy.

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Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32607, USA.



Heterotopic ossification (HO) is reported to occur in 0.1-3.3% of elbows after a severe burn, and can significantly limit elbow motion and upper extremity function.


The study included 9 patients (11 elbows) treated by the senior author (TW). The surgical technique consisted of making multiple small surgical approaches to remove heterotopic ossification (without raising cutaneous flaps) and concomitantly releasing the elbow capsule and skin contracture. Perioperative radiation therapy was performed to decrease heterotopic ossification recurrence. Outcome measures included postoperative elbow range of motion and Mayo Elbow Performance Score.


The average amount of body surface area burned was 54% (range, 10-86%) and mean time from injury to elbow surgery was 416 days (range, 175-860). All elbows had some degree of direct involvement with the thermal injury. Preoperative arc of motion averaged 39° in flexion/extension and 78° in supination/pronation. Four elbows had complete ankylosis in the flexion/extension plane and 1 had only 5° of motion. At last follow-up, arc of motion in flexion/extension averaged 116° and 139° in supination/pronation, an improvement of 77° and 61°, respectively. One recurrence of HO required re-excision.


We recommend this multiple-approach surgical technique for treatment of heterotopic ossification and elbow contracture after burn injury, along with perioperative radiation therapy to decrease recurrence. Our surgical approach and treatment resulted in significant gains in elbow motion and upper extremity function with few complications.

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