Delayed union and nonunions: epidemiology, clinical issues, and financial aspects

Injury. 2014 Jun;45 Suppl 2:S3-7. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2014.04.002.

Abstract

Fracture healing is a critically important clinical event for fracture patients and for clinicians who take care of them. The clinical evaluation of fracture healing is based on both radiographic findings and clinical findings. Risk factors for delayed union and nonunion include patient dependent factors such as advanced age, medical comorbidities, smoking, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use, various genetic disorders, metabolic disease and nutritional deficiency. Patient independent factors include fracture pattern, location, and displacement, severity of soft tissue injury, degree of bone loss, quality of surgical treatment and presence of infection. Established nonunions can be characterised in terms of biologic capacity, deformity, presence or absence of infection, and host status. Hypertrophic, oligotrophic and atrophic radiographic appearances allow the clinician to make inferences about the degree of fracture stability and the biologic viability of the fracture fragments while developing a treatment plan. Non-unions are difficult to treat and have a high financial impact. Indirect costs, such as productivity losses, are the key driver for the overall costs in fracture and non-union patients. Therefore, all strategies that help to reduce healing time with faster resumption of work and activities not only improve medical outcome for the patient, they also help reduce the financial burden in fracture and non-union patients.

Keywords: Aetiology; Cost of treatment; Incidence; Non-union.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / adverse effects*
  • Fracture Healing / physiology*
  • Fractures, Bone / economics
  • Fractures, Bone / therapy*
  • Fractures, Ununited / diagnostic imaging
  • Fractures, Ununited / economics*
  • Fractures, Ununited / epidemiology*
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome