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What Is Etidronate Used For?

Etidronate is used for treating Paget's disease. It can also be used to prevent and treat abnormal bone formation after total hip replacement surgery or spinal cord injury. Since the medication has not been adequately studied in children, it is only approved for use in adults. Occasionally, healthcare providers may also recommend off-label etidronate uses, such as for the treatment of osteoporosis.

Etidronate Uses: An Overview

Etidronate disodium (Didronel®) is a prescription medication that is part of a group of medications known as bisphosphonates. It is approved for the following uses:
  • To prevent and treat abnormal bone formation (known medically as heterotopic ossification) after total hip replacement surgery or spinal cord injury
  • To treat Paget's disease of bone.

Etidronate and Heterotopic Ossification

Heterotopic ossification is the medical term for bone formation in abnormal places (such as in muscle tissue). Heterotopic ossification can lead to extreme pain and loss of mobility and function. It is not known exactly how or why heterotopic ossification occurs, but it often occurs after an injury. Heterotopic ossification is a common complication that occurs after total hip replacement surgery or injury to the spinal cord. The hip is one of the most common places for this abnormal bone formation to occur. When caused by spinal cord injury, the abnormal bone always forms below the level of spinal cord injury.
Not all cases of heterotopic ossification are severe enough to cause symptoms or to require treatment. Treatment for this condition usually includes etidronate and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and sometimes surgery is necessary to remove the abnormal bone. Etidronate is approved to prevent heterotopic ossification due to total hip replacement surgery or spinal cord injury. It is also approved to treat heterotopic ossification that has already started. However, etidronate is not useful for treating abnormal bone that has already fully formed (known as mature heterotopic ossification).
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