Call for clinical guidelines to help burns survivors

Nichola Foster conducted research into the onset of
Heterotopic Ossification in Western Australian burns survivors.

1 June 2017

A Notre Dame University researcher has called for the development of new clinical guidelines to tackle a rare and painful condition that affects a small number of burns survivors.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) graduate, Nichola Foster, conducted studies into Heterotopic Ossification (HO) – a severely debilitating condition that manifests in the abnormal growth of additional bone in skeletal tissue, muscles, joints and other areas of the body – and found that there were no guidelines for clinicians to provide optimum treatment for this condition.

“Because Heterotopic Ossification affects only about 4 per cent of all burns patients admitted to hospital it is often misunderstood even though patients report severe pain, loss of functionality, control and dignity,” said Ms Foster, a current practitioner at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

“One case involved a 25-year-old man who had HO in both his knees, elbows, fingers and both shoulders. The condition has left him with the inability to complete basic tasks, such as getting dressed, brushing his teeth and putting on sunglasses. Another patient described the pain in his elbow as if ‘someone was drilling into it’.

“This research highlighted that health professionals must be proactive in the identification of high risk patients. If clinicians have access to a set of clinical guidelines to manage the early onset of HO and commence treatment, this may arrest the HO process and minimise challenging side effects.”

Ms Foster is planning to extend her current research, applying it to the spinal cord injury and orthopaedic trauma injury fields.


Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;