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Electrical Stimulation for Faster Bone Healing

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Updated June 23, 2013

What is electrical stimulation?:

In most cases of fracture healing, electrical simulation is through a process called capacitive coupling. In this process, two skin electrodes are placed on either side of the broken bone, and a 9 volt battery passes a small current between the electrodes. The patient cannot feel the current, but it does have an effect on the bone cells.

How is electrical stimulation used to heal bone?:

The most notable effect is that this type of electrical stimulation seems to cause bone cells to proliferate. There are other cellular effects of electrical currents on the broken bone, but by stimulating bone cells to divide, healing of bone is accelerated. The skin electrodes are worn at all times, and the battery is changed daily.

Does electrical stimulation make bone heal faster?:

Bone healing from capacitive coupling has been shown to be faster in patients who have nonunions (non-healing bones) or patients who have difficult to heal fractures, such as scaphoid fractures. Electrical stimulation has not been shown to be helpful in uncomplicated fracture healing.

Bottom Line:

Electrical stimulation is a good option for patients who have bone healing problems, or fractures that have poor healing potential. It is probably not too helpful in healing of most fractures.

Sources:

Nelson, FR, et al. "Use of Physical Forces in Bone Healing" J. Am. Acad. Ortho. Surg., September/October 2003; 11: 344 - 354.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Orthopedics
  4. Broken Bones
  5. Treatment of Fractures
  6. Accelerate Bone Healing
  7. Electrical Stimulation to Accelerate Bone Healing

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