Effect of COX-2-Specific Inhibition on Fracture-Healing in the Rat Femur

Karen M. Brown, Marnie M. Saunders, Thorsten Kirsch, Henry J. Donahue, J. Spence Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications have been shown to delay fracture-healing. COX-2-specific inhibitors such as celecoxib have recently been approved for human use. Our goal was to determine, mechanically, histologically, morphologically, and radiographically, whether COX-2-specific inhibition affects bone-healing. Methods: A nondisplaced unilateral fracture was created in the right femur of fifty-seven adult male rats. Rats were given no drug, indomethacin (1 mg/kg/day), or celecoxib (3 mg/kg/day) daily, starting on postoperative day 1. Fractures were analyzed at four, eight, and twelve weeks after creation of the fracture. Callus and bridging bone formation was assessed radiographically. The amounts of fibrous tissue, cartilage, woven bone, and mature bone formation were determined histologically. Morphological changes were assessed to determine fibrous healing, callus formation, and bone-remodeling. Callus strength and stiffness were assessed biomechanically with three-point bending tests. Results: At four weeks, only the indomethacin group showed biomechanical and radiographic evidence of delayed healing. Although femora from rats treated with celecoxib appeared to have more fibrous tissue than those from untreated rats at four and eight weeks, radiographic signs of callus formation, mechanical strength, and stiffness did not differ significantly between the groups. By twelve weeks, there were no significant differences among the three groups. Conclusions: Postoperative administration of celecoxib, a COX-2-specific inhibitor, did not delay healing as seen at twelve weeks following fracture in adult rat femora. At four and eight weeks, fibrous healing predominated in the celecoxib group as compared with the findings in the untreated group; however, mechanical strength and radiographic signs of healing were not significantly inhibited. Clinical Relevance: Many orthopaedists rely on narcotic analgesia for postfracture and postoperative pain, despite deleterious side effects and morbidity. Traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications have been shown to delay fracture union. This effect may be smaller with COX-2-specific inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-123
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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