Normal Bone Healing vs. Nonunions
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Your doctor may have recently informed you that you have a "fracture nonunion." This simply means that you have a fractured (or broken) bone that hasn't demonstrated visible signs of healing. Don't worry - you're not alone. Your bone needs a little extra help to assist in its healing.
When a bone heals normally, it must complete certain steps, which are listed below.
Step 1: Immediately after a fracture, a soft layer of new tissue automatically forms around the fracture.
Step 2: During the next few weeks, that soft layer of new tissue changes into a bridge of tough callous. Callous refers to a fibrous, osseous (bonelike) material.
Step 3: For the next month or so, the tough callous continues to harden and helps the fractured bone join together. In time, both the tough callous and the fractured bone turn into normal bone. The hard callous is often felt as a swelling in the region of the fracture. The swelling will usually decrease over many months.
With nonunions, the bone completes normal healing through Steps 1 and 2. However, before Step 3, the natural healing process is interrupted. Unlike the normal bone healing process, the callous does not harden and the fractured bone does not completely heal. This can occur for many different reasons (excess motion, poor blood supply, etc.) and your orthopedic physician can review all of the possibilities.