Fracture healing in the elderly: A review

Maturitas. 2016 Oct:92:49-55. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2016.07.014. Epub 2016 Jul 21.


Older patients are commonly at a higher risk of experiencing a bone fracture. Complications during fracture healing, including delayed union and non-union, can arise as a result of a multitude of patient and treatment factors. This review describes those factors which contribute to a greater risk of delayed union and non-union with particular reference to the elderly population and discusses therapies that may enhance the fracture healing process in the hope of reducing the incidence of delayed union and non-union. Increasing age does seem to increase the risk of delayed union or non-union. In addition, smoking and the treatment of post-fracture pain with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) put the patient at the greatest risk, while ultrasound therapy appears to be a non-invasive, effective treatment option to reduce the risk of delayed union or non-union. The use of growth factors and of stem cells and the role of surgery are also discussed.

Keywords: Delayed union; Elderly; Fracture healing; Non-union.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Fracture Healing / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonic Therapy*