Nonunion - consensus from the 4th annual meeting of the danish orthopaedic trauma society

Hagen Schmal*, Michael Brix, Mats Bue, Anna Ekman, Nando Ferreira, Hans Gottlieb, Søren Kold, Andrew Taylor, Peter Toft Tengberg, Ilija Ban, Danish Orthopaedic Trauma Society

*Corresponding author for this work

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Nonunions are a relevant economic burden affecting about 1.9% of all fractures. Rather than specifying a certain time frame, a nonunion is better defined as a fracture that will not heal without further intervention. Successful fracture healing depends on local biology, biomechanics and a variety of systemic factors. All components can principally be decisive and determine the classification of atrophic, oligotrophic or hypertrophic nonunions. Treatment prioritizes mechanics before biology. The degree of motion between fracture parts is the key for healing and is described by strain theory. If the change of length at a given load is > 10%, fibrous tissue and not bone is formed. Therefore, simple fractures require absolute and complex fractures relative stability. The main characteristics of a nonunion are pain while weight bearing, and persistent fracture lines on X-ray. Treatment concepts such as 'mechanobiology' or the 'diamond concept' determine the applied osteosynthesis considering soft tissue, local biology and stability. Fine wire circular external fixation is considered the only form of true biologic fixation due to its ability to eliminate parasitic motions while maintaining load-dependent axial stiffness. Nailing provides intramedullary stability and biology via reaming. Plates are successful when complex fractures turn into simple nonunions demanding abso-lute stability. Despite available alternatives, autograft is the gold standard for providing osteoinductive and osteo- conductive stimuli. The infected nonunion remains a challenge. Bacteria, especially staphylococcus species, have developed mechanisms to survive such as biofilm formation, inactive forms and internalization. Therefore, radical debridement and specific antibiotics are necessary prior to reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEFORT Open Reviews
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)46-57
Publication statusPublished - 3. Jan 2020


  • Educative
  • Fracture treatment
  • Nonunion
  • Principals
  • Review
  • Strain theory


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