A broken bone or a bone fracture is a common medical issue that requires proper attention and care for successful healing. Regardless of whether the bone break occurred through an injury or surgical procedure, all bone fractures go through three distinct stages of healing. These stages include inflammation, bone production, and bone remodeling.
Inflammation initiates immediately after a bone fracture and can last for many days. Bleeding occurs at the fracture site, leading to clotting and inflammation. The inflammation and clotting provide the initial structural stability needed for new bone formation. The bone production process starts when the inflammation clot is gradually substituted with fibrous tissue and cartilage, also recognized as “soft callus.” As the healing process continues, the soft callus is replaced with hard bone, referred to as “hard callus,” visible on x-rays several weeks after the bone break.
The final stage of bone healing is bone remodeling, which may last for months. During this stage, the bone continues to form and becomes more compact, returning to its original shape. Additionally, blood circulation in the area improves. Once adequate bone healing has occurred, weight-bearing activities such as standing or walking encourage bone remodeling.
It is crucial to note that bone healing is a complicated process that can vary among individuals depending on specific factors. The time required for bone healing can be influenced by several aspects, including the type of fracture, age, underlying medical conditions, and nutritional status. Typically, it takes about six to eight weeks for bone healing to occur to a significant degree, with children’s bones healing faster than adults.
To promote bone healing, certain measures can be taken during and after planned surgical procedures. Surgeons may offer pre- and post-operative advice on essential dietary and nutritional supplements needed for bone growth. Additionally, smoking cessation and controlling blood sugar levels in diabetic patients are vital, as smoking and high glucose levels interfere with bone healing.
For all patients with fractured bones, immobilization is an essential part of treatment. Any movement of bone fragments further slows down the initial healing process, and the surgeon may use fixation techniques such as screws, plates, or wires to keep the fractured bone from moving. Depending on the type of fracture or surgical procedure, a cast may also be necessary to immobilize the affected area. During the immobilization period, weight-bearing activities are restricted, as per the surgeon’s instructions.
Physical therapy often plays a vital role in rehabilitation once the bone has adequately healed. An exercise program tailored to the patient’s needs can help regain strength, balance, and assist in returning to normal activities.
However, several factors can hinder bone healing, such as movement of bone fragments, premature weight-bearing, smoking, medical conditions like diabetes, hormone-related problems or vascular disease, some medications such as corticosteroids and other immunosuppressants, severe, complicated, or infected fractures, advanced age, and poor nutrition or impaired metabolism.
If bone healing is not occurring as expected, the foot and ankle surgeon may suggest various treatment options to enhance bone growth, including prolonged immobilization, bone stimulation, surgery with bone grafting, or the use of bone growth proteins.
In conclusion, bone healing requires individual attention and care, with several factors influencing the healing process. It is crucial to follow the foot and ankle surgeon’s instructions to promote successful healing and avoid hindering bone growth. If you have a bone fracture, ensure you seek medical attention to receive proper care and treatment recommendations. If you are unsure of what measures to take after a bone fracture, book an appointment with Dr Gilbert Huang DPM, who can offer tailored and expert advice for successful bone healing.