Science Questions

Are healed bones stronger than never-broken bones?

Sun, 27th Feb 2011

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Question

@ItsShaun asked:

Why is it that a healed break or fracture can be said to be stronger than before it was broken?

Answer

We put this to Professor Tim Skerry and Dr Ken Poole...

Tim -   Well yes, actually.  As bones heal, a sort of cuff of new bone forms around the fracture.  So when that's healed and stuck together, the clinical union, which is a few weeks after it’s broken, there’s actually a big thick load of bone where the fracture was, so that would be stronger than the original bone.  But over time, that thick piece will remodel away.  It will be resorbed away by those osteoclasts that Ken was talking about. If you have a fracture as a child, you'll find that within a couple of years, you wouldn’t be able to tell that the bone had ever been fractured.  So eventually, the strength will go back to what it was.

Chris -   Do you see this on scan, Ken?

Ken -   Can we see it on a scan?  Yeah, it’s not one of the bones that we normally see with our DEXA scans which are normally, hip and spine.  If there are forearm scans, we’d normally do the one that wasn’t broken because we ask that question before people go in.

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