Objective: Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is an ultra-rare genetic disorder in which heterotopic bone forms in the soft tissues. This often occurs in response to injury or inflammation, leading to joint immobilization and significant disability. There are currently no definitive treatment options for this devastating disease. Although the most dramatic phenotype in FOP is the episodic and progressive heterotopic ossification, patients report a number of symptoms that affect other organ systems. Post-mortem examination of FOP patients may contribute to our understanding of the underlying pathophysiology and complications of this disease. Here, we present the autopsy findings from three patients with FOP. Findings: Autopsy findings in two of the three patients confirmed that the cause of death was cardiorespiratory failure in the setting of severe thoracic insufficiency from heterotopic ossification. Both of these patients also had evidence of right ventricular dilatation likely secondary to thoracic insufficiency. The third patient died from complications of a traumatic head injury after a fall but also had post-mortem evidence of thoracic insufficiency syndrome. All three patients had extensive, widespread heterotopic ossification and joint deformities consistent with FOP. There was extensive ossification of the spinal ligament in these patients, which may contribute to cervical spine rigidity. One patient was diagnosed post-mortem with a brainstem malformation. No additional significant abnormalities were noted in the other organ systems. Finally, we also demonstrate that cadaveric skin fibroblasts can be isolated for use as a potential source for future in vitro cell culture studies. Conclusions: This autopsy case series provides valuable information about the underlying complications of FOP and contributes significantly to our knowledge of this rare yet debilitating disorder. Thoracic insufficiency syndrome, right heart dysfunction, widespread heterotopic ossification, spinal ligament ossification, and CNS malformations were clearly evident; however, most other non-bone tissues appeared to be spared from gross malformations. Finally, the ability to isolate live cells from cadaveric skin is an important technique that will facilitate future studies, particularly as induced pluripotent stem cells and other cell-based technologies evolve. This case series highlights the importance of post-mortem examinations and their contribution to our current knowledge of disease pathophysiology and comorbidities.
- Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva
- Heterotopic ossification
- Restrictive lung disease
- Thoracic insufficiency syndrome
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism