Sometimes referred to as osteogenesis, ossification is the development of bone within the osseous system. The term is used to refer to the natural formation of bone, such as in the development of a fetus and during the first years of life. At the same time, the term can also be applied to the occurrence of irregularities in bone development that lead to health issues in children and adults.
It is not unusual for some people to confuse ossification with the process of calcification. Essentially, calcification involves the formation of calcium crystals and salts within cells and tissue. This means that calcification occurs as one part of the process of ossification. However, it does not account for the entire process, and thus cannot be properly considered synonymous with osteogenesis.
There are two general classes of ossification or bone tissue formation that have to do with the normal process of bone development. Endochondral ossification as well as intramembranous bone formation identifies various aspects of the normal growth of bones throughout the body, both in terms of the development of cells within the bones as well as the proper development of the outer surface of the skeletal structure. A third class, known as heterotopic ossification, refers to situations where there is some type of atypical or abnormal bone development taking place.
When some type of abnormal bone ossification takes place, it is often necessary to utilize invasive measures to remove the excess tissue. Over the years, a number of incidents have been reported where the bone development process would become so erratic that the lives of the patients were threatened. For example, abnormal hip ossification could result in not only making it difficult to walk, but could also pose a threat to organs housed in the pelvic area, if the bone formation began to place excessive pressure on those organs.
At one time, the process of dealing with excessive ligament and cartilage ossification was extremely limited. Even today, the modern medical care is finite in regards to what can be accomplished in severe cases. However, thanks to more efficient surgical practices and a better understanding of how tissue of all types develops, successfully treating heterotopic bone formation in people of all ages is much more common. Ongoing research into identifying what triggers the abnormal bone development, as well as what factors could prevent the development of normal bone structure, continues and may yet provide additional strategies for dealing with these types of health issues.