Monitoring the mechanical properties of healing bone

  • Claes L
  • Cunningham J
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Abstract

Fracture healing is normally assessed through an interpretation of radiographs, clinical evaluation, including pain on weight bearing, and a manual assessment of the mobility of the fracture. These assessments are subjective and their accuracy in determining when a fracture has healed has been questioned. Viewed in mechanical terms, fracture healing represents a steady increase in strength and stiffness of a broken bone and it is only when these values are sufficiently high to support unrestricted weight bearing that a fracture can be said to be healed. Information on the rate of increase of the mechanical properties of a healing bone is therefore valuable in determining both the rate at which a fracture will heal and in helping to define an objective and measurable endpoint of healing. A number of techniques have been developed to quantify bone healing in mechanical terms and these are described and discussed in detail. Clinical studies, in which measurements of fracture stiffness have been used to identify a quantifiable end point of healing, compare different treatment methods, predictably determine whether a fracture will heal, and identify factors which most influence healing, are reviewed and discussed.

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