How does a frac­tured bone heal?

Bones are among the strong­est struc­tures in the body, but a sim­ple fall can break them. So our amaz­ing bones have an amaz­ing abil­ity - to self-re­pair. Here's how.

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Although bone tis­sue is four times stronger than con­crete, breaks are so com­mon that most peo­ple don't even think of it as a se­vere in­jury (though it can be).

Once a pa­tient with a frac­tured bone ar­rives to the hos­pi­tal, an X-ray is taken, and a doc­tor iden­ti­fies the lo­ca­tion of the frac­tures. Sub­se­quently, the frac­tures are placed in the cor­rect anatom­i­cal po­si­tion, en­sur­ing that as lit­tle new tis­sue as pos­si­ble must be gen­er­ated to re­unite the frac­tures and that the heal­ing takes place in the cor­rect fash­ion.

Fi­nally, the frac­tures must be held safely in po­si­tion, un­til the bones have healed. That is of­ten done by a plas­ter cast or or­tho­sis, which pro­vide sup­port and ease the pain, as the frac­tures can­not move and harm sur­round­ing tis­sue and nerves. In com­plex cases, it is nec­es­sary to fix­ate the frac­tures by means of metal wire, nails, or screws, which re­quires surgery.

Ac­cord­ing to a rule of thumb, it takes twice as long for a frac­ture to heal in the bot­tom half of the body (16 weeks) as in the top half (8 weeks).

In chil­dren, frac­tures heal twice as quickly, whereas in el­derly peo­ple, it will typ­i­cally take longer.

BONES NEED RE­SIS­TANCE

Bones break down and re­gen­er­ate them­selves, when they are sub­jected to a load. In the 1800s, Ger­man anatomist Julius Wolff dis­cov­ered that bones be­come stronger, the more load they are sub­jected to. And they erode and be­come por­ous, when there is no load – like with as­tro­nauts in a state of weight­less­ness.

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