Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and bone-healing: A systematic review of research quality

Alejandro Marquez-Lara, Ian D. Hutchinson, Fiesky Nuñez, Thomas L. Smith, Anna N. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Background: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often avoided by orthopaedic surgeons because of their possible influence on bone-healing. This belief stems from multiple studies, in particular animal studies, that show delayed bone-healing or nonunions associated with NSAID exposure. The purpose of this review was to critically analyze the quality of published literature that evaluates the impact of NSAIDs on clinical bone-healing. Methods: A MEDLINE and Embase search was conducted to identify all articles relating to bone and fracture-healing and the utilization of NSAIDs. All human studies, including review articles, were identified for further analysis. Non-English-language manuscripts and in vitro and animal studies were excluded. A total of twelve clinical articles and twenty-four literature reviews were selected for analysis. The quality of the clinical studies was assessed with a modified Coleman Methodology Score with emphasis on the NSAID utilization. Review articles were analyzed with regard to variability in the cited literature and final conclusions. Results: The mean modified Coleman Methodology Score (and standard deviation) was significantly lower (p = 0.032) in clinical studies that demonstrated a negative effect of NSAIDs on bone-healing (40.0 ± 14.3 points) compared with those that concluded that NSAIDs were safe (58.8 ± 10.3 points). Review articles also demonstrated substantial variability in the number of cited clinical studies and overall conclusions. There were only two meta-analyses and twenty-two narrative reviews. The mean number (and standard deviation) of clinical studies cited was significantly greater (p = 0.008) for reviews that concluded that NSAIDs were safe (8.0 ± 4.8) compared with those that recommended avoiding them (2.1 ± 2.1). Unanimously, all reviews admitted to the need for prospective randomized controlled trials to help clarify the effects of NSAIDs on bone-healing. Conclusions: This systematic literature review highlights the great variability in the interpretation of the literature addressing the impact of NSAIDs on bone-healing. Unfortunately, there is no consensus regarding the safety of NSAIDs following orthopaedic procedures, and future studies should aim for appropriate methodological designs to help to clarify existing discrepancies to improve the quality of care for orthopaedic patients. Clinical Relevance: This systematic review highlights the limitations in the current understandingofthe effects of NSAIDsonbone healing. Thus, withholding these medications does not have any proven scientific benefit to patients and may even cause harm by increasing narcotic requirements in cases in which they could be beneficial for pain management. This review should encourage further basicscience and clinical studies to clarify the risks and benefits of antiinflammatory medications in the postoperative period, with the aim of improving patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00055
JournalJBJS reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


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