7 Reasons a Broken Bone Is Not Healing

Adult patient holding their fractured arm
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Bones are one of the most incredible things about the human body. They’re strong enough to support our weight and protect our organs, but they’re also flexible enough to absorb the impact of a fall. And when they do break, they have an amazing ability to heal themselves. However, sometimes, bones do not heal as quickly as we would like. In this blog post, we will discuss seven reasons why a broken bone is not healing. 

Reasons Why Broken Bones Don’t Heal

Bones are strong—usually. But when they break, it can take a long time for them to heal correctly, if they heal at all. Broken bones happen when the bone is hit with too much force, causing it to crack or shatter. The healing process begins almost immediately as the body works to repair the damage. However, several factors can interfere with the body’s ability to heal a broken bone, resulting in a longer recovery time or even permanent damage. Here are seven reasons why broken bones don't heal as quickly as we would like them to: 

1. The Bone Was Not Set Correctly 

A doctor wrapping a patient's broken arm
Elnur - stock.adobe

Some bones need to be set in order to heal properly. This is because the bone needs to be aligned in the correct position so the cells can knit together and fuse the broken bones. If the bone is not set correctly, it can prevent the ends from meeting properly, which can lead to a nonunion or a malunion, where you may be left with a deformed limb or reduced mobility. A nonunion occurs when a bone fails to heal correctly after a fracture, while a malunion is defined as a healing bone that has healed in an abnormal position. In some cases, the bone may even need to be reset if it has healed improperly. 

2. The Bone Is Poorly Supported

In most cases, the bone will heal properly with the help of a cast. However, if the cast is not applied correctly, it can actually interfere with healing. If there is too much movement at the break site, it can disrupt the formation of new bone tissue. In addition, if the cast does not provide enough support, the bone may not heal in the correct position.

3. There Is Not Enough Blood Flow to the Injury 

The third reason a broken bone may not heal is insufficient blood flow to the injury site. While the body needs blood flow to transport oxygen and nutrients essential for healing, damage to the surrounding tissues or a shattered bone can limit blood flow and hinder the healing process. Without enough blood supply, the bone cannot form new tissue. Surgeries or other treatments may be necessary to promote healing in cases where blood flow is severely restricted. 

4. The Fracture Is Repaired With Too Much Hardware

When metal plates or screws are used to hold the bone in place, they can interfere with the body’s natural healing process. In addition, the hardware can put pressure on the surrounding tissue, damaging blood vessels and nerves. As a result, it’s essential to carefully consider all options before choosing a treatment plan for a broken bone. Surgery should be reserved for cases where it’s absolutely necessary, and metal hardware should only be used when there are no other options. Consult your doctor for the best treatment options for your fracture.

5. A Bone Infection Has Developed

Doctors performing surgery on patient with bone infection
Kawee - stock.adobe

An infection in the bone, called osteomyelitis, can develop after an injury or surgery. The infection may delay or prevent healing and can be challenging to treat. Osteomyelitis is a serious condition that can cause permanent damage to the bone and surrounding tissue. It is not uncommon to be hospitalized and treated with antibiotics if you have osteomyelitis. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to remove the infected bone. If left untreated, an infection can lead to serious complications, such as sepsis, which can be life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you suspect that your broken bone is not healing due to an infection.

6. Healing Has Been Impaired by a Medical Condition

If the patient suffers from a condition that impairs healing, the process may be delayed or complicated. Diabetes, for example, is a condition that affects how the body processes sugar. This can reduce the concentration of nutrients in the blood and decrease blood flow to the injury site. As a result, bones may take longer to heal properly, often leading to long-term complications. In addition, osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become weak and brittle due to a lack of calcium and other nutrients, can also make it difficult for the body to repair itself after an injury.

7. The Patient Smokes Tobacco Products

Nicotine constricts blood vessels and decreases blood flow, which slows the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the bones. In addition, nicotine also interferes with collagen production, which is essential for rebuilding damaged tissue. As a result, smokers are more likely to experience delayed healing and an increased risk of complications following a fracture. If you are a smoker and have suffered a broken bone, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to promote healing.

Symptoms of a Non-healing Bone

Doctor showing a patient the x-ray of her arm fracture
Elnur - stock.adobe

It can be understandably frustrating and confusing when, after what should have been sufficient time and care, your break appears not to have healed properly. If this is a suspected case, patients should look out for these symptoms: 

  • Pain at the site of the break: The most common symptom of a non-healing bone is persistent pain at the site of the injury. This pain may be constant or intermittent, and it may worsen with activity or pressure. 
  • Deformity of the bone: One of the most obvious symptoms of a non-healing bone is the deformity of the bone itself. For example, if a bone that was originally straight is now bent, it may heal in a bent or curved position. This can lead to difficulty moving the affected limb, as well as pain and discomfort.
  • Swelling and bruising: Another common symptom of a non-healing bone is swelling. This can be caused by fluid buildup or inflammation and can often be painful. In addition, the area around the injury may appear bruised, which is caused by bleeding under the skin.
  • Impaired use or function: Inability to use or function the limb normally is often the first sign that something is wrong with the healing process. This may manifest as not being able to put any weight on the limb or as pain when trying to move the limb in a certain way.

If you are unsure whether your broken bone is healing correctly, watch out for these signs. If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor so that they can determine the underlying cause and recommend the best course of treatment. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to realign the bone or provide additional support. In other cases, medication may be needed to improve blood flow or fight infection. But with proper medical care, most broken bones will heal successfully.

Cast21 Treats Broken Bones and Beyond 

It happens to the best of us. You take a spill, hear a crack, and suddenly you're dealing with a broken bone. For weeks you wait for your bone to heal while stuck in a traditional cast that doesn't allow you to see your injury. But what if there was a better way? 

Cast21 is a new medical device company quickly gaining attention for its innovative solutions to some of the most challenging problems faced by patients and physicians alike. Made from a lightweight material that molds to your limb, Cast21 provides support and stability while your bone heals. The open lattice design also allows for breathability, and superior visibility, so you can monitor your injury while it heals. 

If you're suffering from a broken bone that won't heal, ask your doctor if Cast21 is right for you. It just might be the solution you've been looking for. If you have any questions or need help finding a provider, contact us today. We'll be happy to assist you in any way we can.

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