Treatment of Nonunions

A nonunion is broken bone that has not healed correctly. Although treating nonunions is complex, the OHSU fracture team has expertise in surgery, bone biology and infectious disease to address the causes of nonunion. 

Nonunion has three major causes:

  • Too much motion at the fracture site. If the bone was not stabilized enough when the fracture was first treated, the ends of the broken bones might not come together (unite) as they should.
  • Conditions that keep new bone from forming. If you have diabetes, smoke or have a disease that affects your blood vessels, your body may not make new bone well. When your body does not make new bone to join the broken ends of the fracture, it does not heal. 
  • Infection at the fracture site. This is the most challenging cause of nonunion. Bacteria keep new bone from forming and break down the bone that is already there. Treatment includes surgery to remove the infected bone, stabilization of the bone and antibiotics for the infection.