Non-union bone fractures

Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2021 Aug 5;7(1):57. doi: 10.1038/s41572-021-00289-8.


The human skeleton has remarkable regenerative properties, being one of the few structures in the body that can heal by recreating its normal cellular composition, orientation and mechanical strength. When the healing process of a fractured bone fails owing to inadequate immobilization, failed surgical intervention, insufficient biological response or infection, the outcome after a prolonged period of no healing is defined as non-union. Non-union represents a chronic medical condition not only affecting function but also potentially impacting the individual's psychosocial and economic well-being. This Primer provides the reader with an in-depth understanding of our contemporary knowledge regarding the important features to be considered when faced with non-union. The normal mechanisms involved in bone healing and the factors that disrupt the normal signalling mechanisms are addressed. Epidemiological considerations and advances in the diagnosis and surgical therapy of non-union are highlighted and the need for greater efforts in basic, translational and clinical research are identified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones
  • Fracture Healing
  • Fractures, Bone* / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Bone* / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Bone* / therapy
  • Fractures, Ununited* / epidemiology
  • Humans