Bone fractures create five problems that must be resolved: bleeding, risk of infection, hypoxia, disproportionate strain, and inability to bear weight. There have been enormous advancements in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that resolve these problems after fractures, and in best clinical practices of repairing fractures. We put forth a modern, comprehensive model of fracture repair that synthesizes the literature on the biology and biomechanics of fracture repair to address the primary problems of fractures. This updated model is a framework for both fracture management and future studies aimed at understanding and treating this complex process. This model is based upon the fracture acute phase response (APR), which encompasses the molecular mechanisms that respond to injury. The APR is divided into sequential stages of "survival" and "repair." Early in convalescence, during "survival," bleeding and infection are resolved by collaborative efforts of the hemostatic and inflammatory pathways. Later, in "repair," avascular and biomechanically insufficient bone is replaced by a variable combination of intramembranous and endochondral ossification. Progression to repair cannot occur until survival has been ensured. A disproportionate APR-either insufficient or exuberant-leads to complications of survival (hemorrhage, thrombosis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, infection, death) and/or repair (delayed- or non-union). The type of ossification utilized for fracture repair is dependent on the relative amounts of strain and vascularity in the fracture microenvironment, but any failure along this process can disrupt or delay fracture healing and result in a similar non-union. Therefore, incomplete understanding of the principles herein can result in mismanagement of fracture care or application of hardware that interferes with fracture repair. This unifying model of fracture repair not only informs clinicians how their interventions fit within the framework of normal biological healing but also instructs investigators about the critical variables and outputs to assess during a study of fracture repair.
Keywords: Acute phase response; Endochondral ossification; Fracture repair; Fracture vascularity; Non-union; Strain.