Fractures 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.