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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1997 Jul;(340):181-9.

Recalcitrant nonunion.

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  • 1Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program, Department of Orthopedics, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


One surgeon treated 13 patients with 14 long home fractures that remained ununited for 10 or more years (average, 16 years) and after an average of three prior surgeries. The clavicle was involved in two cases, the humerus in five (one proximal, three diaphyseal, and one distal intraarticular), the femoral diaphysis in three, and the tibial diaphysis in four. The patients were observed for an average of 54 months. All of the fractures healed, and every patient in the series regained functional use of the involved limb without reports of pain, instability, or persistent swelling related to the site of nonunion. Three patients had persistent leg length discrepancies, and five had substantial residual stiffness of one or both adjacent joints. This experience has shown that despite the longevity of the nonunions, healing can be achieved using the basic concepts of the creation of a stable skeletal fixation in the presence of a well vascularized environments with the addition of autogenous bone graft. By the same token, the duration of the nonunion will lead to soft tissue maladaptation and contracture that at times compromise successful restoration of limb length or adjacent articular mobility.

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