When a broken bone fails to heal permanently, it’s referred to as a non-union. This type of orthopedic problem results when there’s unstable repair, an infection, or insufficient blood supply for healing purposes. Sometimes, a non-union fracture may eventually heal on its own, but in most cases, surgical intervention is necessary.
Recovery rates following surgery are variable, but typically, if a nonunion has failed to heal after six months, then it must be repaired to enable new bone tissue to bridge the fracture. Dr. Daniel C. Allison is a skilled Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon with years of experience treating non-union bone fractures. He knows that if improperly healed bones go untreated, complications such as a shortened limb or a gap between the fracture ends may occur. By calling (310) 730-8008 or filling out the online contact form, you can schedule an appointment that can provide you with the answers you need on the path to recovery.Contact An Orthopedic Specialist
Non-Union Complications Effectively Resolved
A non-union fracture is defined by the FDA as “established when a minimum of six months has elapsed since fracture with no visible progressive signs of healing for three months.”
When checking a patient for a possible non-union bone fracture, Dr. Allison examines the fracture site for the following signs:
- Persistent pain
- Lack of mobility
- Limited functionality
- Slight warmth and swelling of the skin
Improper healing could be the result of patient-related, fracture-related or fixation-related factors. Identifying which one of these issues is the source of the non-union is critical to correcting the problem and preventing further complications or recurrence.
Non-unions are categorized as follows:
- Hypertrophic – Mechanical failure. Bulging appearance indicates mobility at the fracture site. The solution is to rigidly fix and stabilize the fracture.
- Atrophic – Organic failure. Poor healing occurred from a lack of blood supply. A more complicated non-union requiring a two-step correction. Accumulated scar tissue is removed from bone ends and the bone graft is applied to fracture site.
Key to ensuring the most appropriate treatment for a non-union is identifying the source of the problem. Therefore, you require a surgeon like Dr. Allison who is familiar with the complexities of musculoskeletal structures and can expertly identify, diagnose, and treat this type of condition.
A physical examination of the injury is first performed, followed by imaging tests such as an MRI or X-ray. Diagnostic exams are helpful in identifying if scar tissue or cartilage has formed as a result of the non-union bone injury. This cartilage, or “pseudo-joint,” is common to atrophic non-unions and must be cleaned up before the fracture can be corrected.
When treating non-union fractures and depending on a patient’s case, some of the following treatment approaches could be considered:
- Plates or screws to secure fracture
- Synthetic, donor bone graft to adhere bone
- Bone marrow to aid in new bone formation
Dr. Allison also takes great care in examining the fracture site for any infection. If there is infection, he removes the infected bone or tissue and gives the site an intensive antibiotic treatment.
Recovery from a non-union repair may take a long healing period after surgery. Duration depends on the physical condition of the patient and the extent of the complication. Rehabilitation and recovery for a non-union repair surgery are similar to the initial injury. The affected limb cannot bear any weight for several weeks and minimal use of the limb is essential for the fracture to heal.
Read more about nonunions at AAOS.org.
Contact the Orthopedic Oncology Specialist
If you think a previously fractured bone did not heal properly, contact Dr. Daniel C. Allison, a renowned Los Angeles orthopedic oncologist specializing in limb preservation, complex fractures, and bone trauma. Call today for a personal consultation at (310) 730-8008 and learn how we can help you.Contact Us
Next, please read about mal-unions.