In recent years, excipient systems have been used increasingly in biomedicine in reconstructive and replacement surgery, as bone cements, drug-delivery vehicles and contrast agents. Particularly, interest has been growing in the development and application of controlled pore inorganic ceramic materials for use in bone-replacement and bone-repair roles and, in this context, attention has been focused on calcium-phosphate, bioactive glasses and SiO2- and TiO2-based materials. It has been shown that inorganic materials that most closely mimic bone structure and surface chemistry most closely function best in bone replacement/repair and, in particular, if a substance possesses a macroporous structure (pores and interconnections >100 microm diameter), then cell infiltration, bone growth and vascularization can all be promoted. The surface roughness and micro/mesoporosity of a material have also been observed to significantly influence its ability to promote apatite nucleation and cell attachment significantly. Pores (where present) can also be packed with pharmaceuticals and biomolecules (e.g., bone morphogenetic proteins [BMPs], which can stimulate bone formation). Finally, the most bio-efficient - in terms of collagen formation and apatite nucleation - materials are those that are able to provide soluble mineralizing species (Si, Ca, PO(4)) at their implant sites and/or are doped or have been surface-activated with specific functional groups. This article presents the context and latest advances in the field of bone-repair materials, especially with respect to the development of bioactive glasses and micro/mesoporous and macroporous inorganic scaffolds. It deals with the possible methods of preparing porous pure/doped or functionalized silicas or their composites, the studies that have been undertaken to evaluate their abilities to act as bone repair scaffolds and also presents future directions for work in that context.