BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Heterotopic ossification (HO) often follows acetabular fractures after multitrauma. Irradiation is a mean for prophylaxis. We established a standard procedure in our hospital for patients under sedation, when obtaining informed consent for HO prophylaxis is impossible. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We reviewed current scientific evidence, calculated the risks of radiation and presented the ethical and legal framework. The subject was scrutinised by an interdisciplinary panel. RESULTS: Irradiation is the most effective means for prophylaxis and has few adverse effects in adult patients with fractures of the acetabulum. The lifetime risk of radiation-induced cancer or infertility are insignificant. CONCLUSIONS: Informed consent for irradiation should be obtained before operation whenever possible. When this cannot be done prophylaxis can be postponed for a maximum of 3 days in order to obtain consent. If the patient is not able to communicate within this period, prophylactic irradiation should be given after consulting the relatives. The patient must be informed as soon as possible.