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How Bone Growth Stimulators Work

Bone healing is a natural process. Our bones are constantly being replaced with new bone, and after a bone injury occurs, the body has a tremendous capability to heal the damage to the bone on its own. Most people who sustain a broken bone will heal these fractures with appropriate treatment that may include casts, realignment, and surgery. Sometimes, however, bone healing does not occur without problems.

How Bone Stimulators Work

Bones are made up of living tissue and a fracture results in two broken ends; one of which has a positive charge and the other end which has a negative charge. Bone growth stimulation is a form of treatment that is used to promote the healing of nonunion fractures, which refers to a bone fracture that does not display any visible signs of healing. The stimulator is a small device that can be implanted under the skin or outside of the skin. The device generates an electromagnetic field that helps attract the two oppositely charged ends of the bones to each other by promoting new bone growth and fusion, which leads to healing.

Types of External Bone Growth Stimulators

Internal bone growth stimulators are surgically implanted. External bone growth stimulators are portable devices that can be worn on the outside of the body (even over a brace or cast) using straps to secure them in place.

Bone growth stimulation is often prescribed by orthopedic doctors following a spinal fusion surgery (cervical or lumbar). External stimulators can also be placed over the site of a bone fracture, just about anywhere on the body.

There are two primary types of external growth stimulator devices:

  • Electrical Stimulators (direct current, inductive coupling, or capacitive coupling)

These typically use a coil or electrodes placed on the skin or over a modified cast or brace. When activated, a low-level electrical field emits from the device. These weak electrical currents have been shown to stimulate bone formation and calcification.

  • Ultrasonic osteogenesis stimulators (ultrasound accelerated fracture healing devices)

Ultrasound is transmitted from a device and with a coupling gel applied to the skin over the site of the fracture. Ultrasound produces a wave, which sends a signal that applies a pressure to the bone. Bone growth stimulation is thought to result from this pressure, which is similar to mechanical pressure put on the bone.

Are Bone Stimulators Safe?

To date, bone growth stimulators are not known to induce any adverse side effects in people. However, bone stimulators should not be used in the following cases:

  • Where the fracture gap is larger than 50 percent of the bone’s diameter
  • Where pseud arthrosis (a false joint) has developed
  • When magnetic materials have been used to stabilize the bone
  • In pregnant women
  • In people with a growth disorder (skeletal immaturity)
  • In people with pacemakers or defibrillators (without first consulting a cardiologist)

A Word From Ventura Orthopedics Today

Bone healing typically proceeds without much problem. However, there are situations where people have problems healing bone after fractures or surgery to fuse the bone together. In these situations, there may be steps to help stimulate the body to heal bone. While the improvement may be small with the use of a bone stimulator, if it is the difference between healing and non-healing, it may be critical. Bone stimulators are not used for routine bone healing, but only in situations where there are particular circumstances that make healing less likely. In these situations, wearing a bone growth stimulator may help accelerate fracture healing.

The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. We are committed to helping you through any procedure until optimum health, strength and mobility are restored. Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.

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