How common are non-union fractures?
Bone fractures are common, and most of us might have had at least one fracture in a lifetime. Some bone fractures might be minor, which heal faster, and some are severe that take more time to heal. However, in-between the fracture and its healing time, many factors affect the bone’s healing process, which results in some severe complications.
Non-union fractures, malunion fractures, delayed union fractures, bone loss, etc., are complications associated with broken bones.
Broken bones can be painful, but most of them heal very well. The secret of healing lies in stem cells and the natural ability of the bone to renew itself.
What is a Non-union Bone Fracture?
Cartilage or soft callus is formed to fill the void space between the ends of a broken bone. The soft callus is replaced with hard, bone-like callus, and thus the fractured ends unite together. This process mainly depends on blood vessels’ formation because they supply nutrition to the bone to heal faster. When this healing process is disturbed by any means, it results in many complications, and non-union is one of them.
A non-union fracture is said to be when the fracture doesn’t heal, or healing may not be possible without additional surgery. Usually, a broken bone takes a few weeks to several months to heal, depending on many factors. When you can do your regular activities after a fracture, it can be considered a healed fracture.
What Causes a Non-union Fracture?
Non-union occurs due to lack of calcification, blood flow, or both. When the bone breaks due to high force, such as from vehicle accidents can cause severe injuries and often reduce the blood supply to the fractured bone. There are several causes and risk factors for a fracture to turn out to be a non-union fracture.
Causes of Delayed Union of fractures
Inadequate blood supply to the broken bones: It is one of the major causes of non-union fractures. Many factors contribute to the healing of a fractured bone, including the blood supply, stem cells that repair broken bones, and other growth factors. Inadequate blood supply means a lack of oxygenated blood and growth factors which can result in non-union fractures. Medically it is termed Ischemia.
Inadequate stabilization of the fracture
Stabilization is a key factor in the healing process of fractures. The broken bones should be aligned correctly and stabilized; otherwise, the fracture doesn’t heal. In some severe cases, the fractures need to be stabilized with the help of implants like screws, rods, plates, etc.
Separation of broken bone ends: If the broken bones are not placed close enough to the joints or broken after stabilization, it may lead to malunion.
Damaging the surrounding tissue can cause infections or any bacteria to penetrate the fractured point; it prevents healing. The infection should be treated and eliminated before reconstruction occurs.
Soft-tissue imposition: If the dead tissue or the newly formed tissue comes in between the broken bones, it prevents the joining of the two bones, called non-union fracture. Sometimes it might also develop an infection at the site of the fracture. It is further treated by debridement of the infection and soft tissue.
Severe fractures cause crushing the bone into small pieces. To realign the bone, it needs to be carved, and a bone graft is required for proper healing. If the process is not done properly, it might result in a non-union fracture.
Slow healing, damage to tissues or muscles surrounding the fracture, etc., are the most common reasons for non-union fractures.
Risk Factors That Can Cause Non-union Fractures:
When you have a fracture, some possible risk factors can increase the risk of non-union fractures.
- Usage of NSAIDs
- If you smoke and drink alcohol, they inhibit your broken bone’s healing process, which might result in non-union.
- Increasing age, aged people have less bone density and lower healing capacity
- In some diabetic people, the healing capacity is very low
- Inadequate nutrition can’t provide sufficient growth factors to heal the bone
- Deficiency of Vitamin D
- Thyroid imbalance
- Genetic problems which come as hereditary
- Hyperparathyroidism or Hypothyroidism
- A complex fracture (open or with multiple pieces)
If you have a fracture and don’t know how common are non-union fractures discuss all the pros and cons of the treatment with your orthopaedician to prevent further complications. Some medications might not be suitable for your health condition and may increase the risk of non-union. Take suggestions from the best fracture treatment doctor for faster recovery.
The treatment for a non-union fracture depends upon the cause. Dr. Vasudeva Juvvadi, one of the best fracture treatment doctors in Hyderabad, says that Non-union fractures have both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options, which have their benefits. Some people might require more than one treatment procedure.
If you have a painful fracture and which is not healed or if you want to know How common are non-union fractures or if you want more information about fracture treatment in Hyderabad, contact Dr. Vasudeva Juvvadi, consultant orthopedic surgeon in Hyderabad at Sunshine Hospitals. He has 10+ years of experience in treating various types of fractures.