When your bone breaks or is fractured, the broken bone’s healing might take a few months based on different factors. A fractured bone is considered to be healed or “united” completely when it allows you to do regular activities.
Considering various factors, a fracture can take anywhere between 4 weeks to 6 months to heal. In some critical cases, it might take even more time to heal.
However, bone healing might not happen in some peculiar cases as we expect, leading to significant health problems. Around 10% of bone fractures will take more time to heal as they might not join together due to various factors. These bone healing complications are known as non-union bone fractures, malunion bone fractures, and delayed union bone fractures, which sometimes need additional treatment to fix it.
What is a delayed union fracture?
Delayed union bone fracture is sometimes confused with non-union fracture; non-union bone fracture results from a delayed union. A bone fracture is considered to be a “non-union” fracture if it is not healed or requires further surgery to heal completely. Whereas a “Delayed Union” is a bone fracture where the broken bone took or is taking more time to heal than expected. Still, most of the time, it is likely to heal without additional surgery eventually.
What causes delayed union fracture?
The process of bone healing happens in different phases, including bone generation, the formation of soft callus, hard bone, and, finally, remodelling. However, the process gets disturbed due to the lack of radiographic progression of healing or the broken bone’s instability between 4 and 6 months after injury.
Inefficient immobilization, fixation in the wrong direction, and irradiated bone can result in delayed union fracture.
Some other factors that can lead to delayed union fracture are as follows:
- Increasing age
- Metabolic disease like Diabetes
- Smoking Tobacco
- Alcohol consumption
- General health
- Using NSAIDs
- Loss of blood supply
Characteristics of a fracture include open fracture, infection, comminuted(breaking the bone is in three or more fragments) and segmental fractures, the severity of the trauma, and the anatomic location of fractures. If you can control the risk factors like smoking, drinking, and infection, you can reduce delayed union prevalence.
Treatment for delayed union fracture?
In most patients, long bone fractures will generally heal without any complications. The incidence of delayed union fracture is observed in a small percentage of bone fractures, around 2 to 10%.
The development of the fracture stabilization process has been advanced drastically. However, focusing only on restoring mechanical integrity is a poor strategy. This should go hand in hand with the optimization of the environment for bone healing. This can be accomplished by clearly understanding the compensatory osteogenesis mechanism; only in this way, the original cause that prevents the fracture’s integration is determined and eliminated.
There were some non-surgical procedures like electrical, electromagnet, and ultrasound procedures to stimulate bone healing. They can boost the healing process. If nothing works, another surgery needs to be done to fix the problem. However, an orthopaedic surgeon evaluates the condition completely before treatment.
We need to raise awareness about the value of primary treatment such as stabilization and wound debridement, as patients need to reach the hospital as soon as possible.
Patients require moral support from family members for hospitalization as early as possible to reduce the risk of delayed union. An appropriate treatment modality, either surgical or conservative, is suggested to fix the problem. In the treatment procedure, bone regeneration substitutes like bone grafting and PRP might also promote healing faster and reduce infection.
To know more information or if you feel any discomfort even after treatment, consult Dr Vasudeva Juvvadi, one of the best orthopaedic doctors for fracture treatment in Hyderabad, Gachibowli.