BackgroundFibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is an ultra-rare disorder marked by painful, recurrent flare-ups and heterotopic ossification (HO) in soft and connective tissues, which can be idiopathic or provoked by trauma, illness, inflammation, or surgery. There are currently no effective treatments for FOP, or for patients with FOP who must undergo surgery. Palovarotene, an investigational retinoic acid receptor-γ agonist, offers a potential avenue to prevent HO formation.
Case presentationThe patient is a 32 year-old male, who at age 29 enrolled in a study evaluating palovarotene to prevent HO formation in FOP. One year after starting palovarotene, he fell resulting in a left intertrochanteric fracture. He underwent intramedullary nailing of the femur shaft with screw placement at the distal femur. After surgery, he received palovarotene at 20 mg/day for 4 weeks, then 10 mg/day for 8 weeks. Imaging 12 weeks after surgery showed new bridging HO at the site of intramedullary rod insertion and distal screw. Nine months after the left hip fracture, the patient had a second fall resulting in a subdural hematoma, left parietal bone fracture, and right intertrochanteric fracture. He underwent intramedullary nailing of the right hip, in a modified procedure which did not require distal screw placement. Palovarotene 20 mg/day was started at fracture occurrence and continued for 4 weeks, then reduced to 10 mg/day for 8 weeks. HO also formed near the insertion site of the intramedullary rod. No HO developed at the right distal intramedullary rod. After each fracture, the patient had prolonged recurrent flare-ups around the hips.
ConclusionSurgery is only rarely considered in FOP due to the high risks of procedural complications and potential for inducing HO. This case emphasizes the risks of increased flare activity and HO formation from injury and surgery in patients with FOP. The efficacy of HO prevention by palovarotene could not be assessed; however, our observation that palovarotene can be administered in an individual with FOP following surgery with no negative impact on clinical fracture healing, osteointegration, or skin healing will help facilitate future trials testing the role of palovarotene as a therapy for HO.