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Radiotherapy treatment for heterotopic ossification

Patient information A-Z


This leaflet contains information about your proposed radiotherapy treatment to prevent abnormal bone formation following your recent pelvic or leg surgery. If you have any questions or concerns about the information given to you, or any aspect of your treatment, please speak to a member of the team.

Why am I having radiotherapy?

Heterotopic ossification is the abnormal formation of bone in soft tissue which may occur after trauma and following reconstructive pelvic or leg surgery. It can be associated with joint stiffness and reduced mobility. Radiotherapy is used as a preventative treatment to try to stop this abnormal bone developing and therefore optimise joint mobility following surgery.

What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy uses carefully measured doses of strong x-rays to treat diseases and it is given by therapy radiographers. It is most commonly used to treat various types of cancer, but radiotherapy also has a role in treating benign (non-cancerous) conditions.

How many treatments will I have?

You will have one treatment.

How is the radiotherapy planned?

Radiotherapy treatment is tailored to the individual patient and requires careful planning. First, a CT scan of the area requiring treatment is done in the radiotherapy department. The CT images are then used to determine the exact area that will require treatment.

Picture of radiotherapy CT scanner
Radiotherapy CT Scanner

What happens during treatment?

Inside the treatment room, the radiographers will position you correctly on the treatment couch before leaving the room to switch the machine on. You will be alone in the treatment room but the radiographers will be watching you over the closed circuit television camera system. They can also talk to you through an intercom if you want them to. If you need help, raise your arm. The machine can be switched off and the radiographers can come and assist you.

The radiotherapy machines are quite large but they don’t actually touch you. The machines make a buzzing sound when switched on, but radiotherapy is completely painless. The radiotherapy treatment itself only takes a few minutes, although your appointment will take about half an hour as this includes positioning you on our treatment bed. You will not be radioactive afterwards and are safe to mix with other people including children and pregnant women.

Image of Radiotherapy machine
Radiotherapy machine

What are the side effects of treatment?

Some of the commonly seen side effects of radiotherapy are listed below, but even these can vary between people. Side effects tend to appear within a few days of treatment and then gradually subside.


You may feel more tired for a few weeks following radiotherapy. Drinking plenty of fluids is recommended.

Skin reaction

Radiotherapy will only affect your skin within the treated area. You may notice your skin here becomes slightly red, warm, itchy or dry. This may occur a few days after treatment and then gradually settle. We advise you to wash daily with a mild soap and warm water and pat dry with a clean soft towel. E45® or Diprobase® cream may be used to keep the skin moisturised.


Nausea (feeling sick) is uncommon following radiotherapy but can be controlled effectively with anti-sickness drugs if required.

Bowel disturbances

Bowel disturbances do sometimes occur when treating areas of the pelvis. You may notice that your bowels become looser for a few days after radiotherapy.

Long term side effects

Radiotherapy may cause some patients to have an extremely small increase in their risk of developing a malignancy (cancer) in the area treated later in life. If you have concerns about this then please speak with your doctor. The radiotherapy will not affect fertility.


If you have any worries or questions about any aspect of your treatment, please do not hesitate to contact the radiotherapy department on the number below.

Radiotherapy Reception

01223 216634

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151