Heal Better with Electricity
by S. Robert Rozbruch, MD
Orthopaedic Trauma Service
Co-Chief, Limb Lengthening Service
Hospital for Special Surgery
Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
A fracture or broken bone can be a very disabling experience for a
patient. Some fractures are minor and heal easily in a cast. Others
can be more complicated requiring surgery and lengthy rehabilitation.
Some injuries become "problem fractures" and do not heal predictably.
This can be related to the patientŐs health and severity or location
of the fracture. These fractures have the highest incidence of delayed
union or nonunion (when the bone does not heal).
All fractures and fracture patients do have one thing in common. The
quicker we can get the bone to heal, the faster the recovery and resumption
of normal activities. Scientific studies have shown that electricity
stimulates bone formation in the laboratory. Clinical studies have
confirmed improved bone healing of problem fractures with the use
of electrical stimulation.
We use electrical stimulation for many fractures as an adjuvant to
our normal treatment. The patient wears a padded coil or pads on their
skin inducing a painless electromagnetic field. This field created
is similar to the normal electrical impulses in the body that stimulate
fracture healing. By mimicking those normal impulses, the use of electrical
stimulation is like pushing a fast forward button on fracture healing.
The electrical stimulator that we use is provided by EBI Medical Systems
(Parsippany, NJ). The devise is lightweight and is usually worn at
night. It can be integrated into a cast or external fixator and the
location is customized for each individual.
So, while every fracture has its own personality, some needing a cast
and others needing surgery, all can benefit from a modality that improves
bony healing. Electrical stimulation is a painless noninvasive modality
that helps fractures heal and we often use this as an adjuvant to
our routine treatment.