In the event of an injury leading to damage to the bone, the body transmits inflammatory response, and cells start to form a hematoma around the injury. The blood clot is replaced within one week or of the injury, and is substituted with a soft material called callus to form a bridge that holds the bit together.
Over a period from the time of injury, the callus hardens into bone for the healing process to be complete.
However, in some instances, the bridge between bones is not formed to create a non-union. For patients with long-bone fractures, non-unions can be particularly debilitating to severely affect quality of life and the ability to work. In fact, non-unions can be difficult for surgeons to detect as it requires subjective assessment of X-rays captured over a period of six to nine months. The challenge lies in bone could be healing at an extremely slow pace, which may not require additional intervention.
On the other hand, in the event of non-healing, this results into months of endurance of pain and limited activity for patients only to face another surgery.
The perfect solution would be to have a tool to enable surgeons to identify non-unions earlier.
Importantly, the final objective is to save time, money, and frustration for patients. This is because if the surgeon informs the patient of a clinically diagnosed non-union that may require intervention, this would further delay the ability of the patient to get back to normal life. A paper on the study published in Scientific Reports explains the dual nature of healing zone as both hard and soft material influences mechanical rigidity of the whole bone.