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A to Z: Nonunion of Fracture

May also be called: Nonunion, Fracture Nonunion

Nonunion of fracture is a condition that happens when a broken bone, or fracture, does not heal.

More to Know

Broken bones are common, and if treated properly, most heal with no problems. Bones will typically form new tissue to fill in the fractures and reconnect the pieces. In some cases, however, broken bones simply don’t heal. This is known as nonunion. Cases that take longer than normal to heal are called delayed union. Fracture nonunion generally needs advanced treatment when the normal treatments for broken bones don’t work.

To mend itself, a broken bone needs stability, nutrition, and adequate blood supply. If something disrupts any of these things, it can keep the bone from healing correctly. Factors that can interfere with a bone’s ability to heal include old age, severe anemia, low vitamin D levels, diabetes, infection, the use of tobacco or nicotine, and certain anti-inflammatory medicines.

Nonunion fractures can cause pain at the site of the break months or even years after the break should have been healed. Nonunions are often treated with devices called bone stimulators that use electromagnetic waves to help new bone growth. Other cases may need surgery involving bone grafts and the use of rods, pins, plates, or screws to stabilize the bone while it heals.

Keep in Mind

Nonunion of fracture will not heal on its own and requires further treatment. Failure to treat a nonunion can lead to long-term pain, deformity, and loss of function in the affected area. The success rate for surgery or other treatments depends on the fracture, the health of the patient, and the length of time since the fracture happened. In most cases, the bone will heal with little or no long-term complications.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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