Whether a bone has been cut as part of a surgical procedure or fractured through an injury, the healing process is the same. As the bone heals it goes through three stages: inflammation, production, and remodeling.
- Immediately after the bone is fractured, inflammation starts and lasts for several days. Inflammation and clotting of blood at the fracture site provides the initial framework for producing new bone.
- Bone production begins when the clotted blood is replaced with fibrous tissue and cartilage ("soft callus”). The soft callus is then replaced with hard bone ("hard callus”). Several weeks after the fracture, hard callus is visible on x-rays.
- Bone remodeling goes on for several months as the bone continues to form and return to its original shape. Once the bone has adequately healed, weight bearing (such as standing or walking) encourages bone remodeling.
Bone generally takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal to a significantly. In general, children's bones heal faster than adult’s. Since bone healing is a complex process, speed and success differ among individuals. Your doctor will determine when you are ready to bear weight on the area.
Immobilization is a crucial part of treatment, because any movement of bone fragments slows down the initial healing process. Once the bone is adequately healed, physical therapy often plays a key role in rehabilitation.
The following can potentially hinder the healing process:
- Engaging in physical (weight bearing) activities too soon after the fracture
- Medical conditions, such as diabetes or vascular disease
- Medications, such as corticosteroids and other immunosuppressants
- Activities such as smoking decrease circulation and slow the healing process
- Other factors, such as age, poor nutrition, or impaired metabolism can affect the healing process.