Fractures normally heal, but when they don’t, it can be a mess. When a fracture doesn’t heal, it’s called a non-union or a delayed-union fracture. Most commonly, surgery is used to place a bone graft or some bio material in the fractured area, and electromagnetic bone simulators are used to try to help the bone mend. Sometimes hardware screws and plates are used to help hold the pieces of broken bone together. When a bone has fractured into many pieces, it’s not productive to place excessive amounts of hardware in the body.

A recently treated patient found herself in that unenviable position. After fracturing her shoulder in a fall, she was told that her humerus bone had fractured into too many fragments to treat with surgery. Several different intersecting fracture lines had created seven distinct bone pieces. Despite the fact that the patient’s humerus had not healed over the course of many months, she was told to wait even longer. The patient decided instead to seek precise stem-cell injections into the bone to help her fractures heal. A 15-gauge specialized needle was used to inject stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow into the fracture lines in her broken humerus to promote healing of the bone.

A research article on using this stem-cell technique to treat non-union fractures was published December 14, 2011, in the Journal of Bioengineering and Biomedical Science, offering hope to patients whose fracture has been deemed inoperable or whose surgical options for treatment are poor.

“Bone Healing Help: Can a Stem-Cell Injection Heal a Fracture That Surgery Won’t Touch?” first appeared as a post on the Regenexx blog.