Bone of Contention: Healing the inadequacies of fracture assessment | Action Medical Research

Bone of Contention: Healing the inadequacies of fracture assessment

9 January 2001
Bristol experts could change the face of fracture treatment, thanks to a new research grant being awarded by leading medical charity, Action Research. The one-year study, being spearheaded by both the University of Bristol and the city’s Southmead General Hospital, could lead to more accurate and reliable assessments of when a fracture has healed. Leading the research team, Dr James Cunningham, of the University’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, says: ‘With new drug treatments being introduced to increase the rate of bone repair and the necessity of determining whether such drugs actually have a positive effect, there is now an urgent need to develop a new approach to measuring fracture repair. ‘This needs to be one that can be applied regardless of the method used to treat the fracture.’ Gauging when a damaged bone has healed is a matter of clinical judgement, based upon impressions of the stiffness of a fracture and its x-ray appearance. Such assessments are very subjective and have been shown to be unreliable, says Dr Cunningham. However, researchers have found that the rate at which new bone is forming during the recovery process can provide a useful indication of how well the fracture is healing. This is called the ‘callus index’. Action Research, which helped pioneer hip replacement surgery, has awarded more than £26,000 to the Bristol researchers. Based in a clinical setting, the team will examine whether this particular ‘callus index’ measurement can reliably indicate when a fracture is healed. This study has the potential to also help with the assessment of new treatments designed to increase the rate of bone repair. The project is one of many orthopaedic studies Action Research has committed to recently. Another grant in Edinburgh is investigating why cartilage no longer protects the joint in osteoarthritis sufferers. Action Research launched its Touching Lives campaign last year, which aims to raise £1.5m for vital medical research to benefit children and families across the UK. For further information, please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541, or email: nduckworth@action.org.uk
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