Understanding How Bone Growth Stimulator Works

Healing of Bones

The healing of bones is an innate process within the human body. Our skeletal structure undergoes a continuous cycle of renewal, and when a bone sustains injury, the body possesses remarkable abilities to repair the damage. Individuals who experience fractures usually undergo healing through various treatments such as casting, realignment, or surgical intervention. Occasionally, bone healing becomes necessary for procedures where bones need to be fused together, commonly performed in spinal and joint surgeries, with the bone typically undergoing successful healing without complications.

On occasions, bone healing encounters challenges. Instances include prolonged periods for healing (delayed union) or instances where healing fails to transpire altogether (nonunion). In efforts to mitigate these complications, medical professionals continuously seek methods to accelerate and enhance the reliability of bone healing.


How Do Bone Growth Stimulators Work?

Bone stimulators come in different forms, sizes, and technological configurations. Among the common choices in orthopedics are electrical and ultrasound stimulators. Typically, contemporary bone stimulators are affixed in close proximity to the fracture or fusion site, accompanied by a compact battery pack, and are worn daily for varying durations, ranging from minutes to hours.

The stimulator releases pulsed electromagnetic or ultrasonic impulses to the targeted area where bone healing is intended to take place.

The objective of a bone stimulator is to trigger a cascade of receptors in the body, prompting a healing response. Essentially, the bone stimulator initiates a pathway that prompts the release of chemicals within the body. These chemicals serve as internal signals, advancing the process of fracture healing.

This phenomenon within the body is termed a "cascade," wherein one signal prompts another process to initiate, subsequently progressing until the healing is fully accomplished. The aspiration of a bone stimulator is to propel this cascade forward continuously, ensuring uninterrupted advancement until the healing process reaches completion.


How Effective Bone Growth Stimulators are?

Early studies of bone stimulator effectiveness seem to show two benefits:

  1. Reduced pain linked with the process of bone healing.
  2. Accelerated recovery from fractures.

These studies haven't proven that these changes make patients' conditions better. It's puzzling because if there's less pain and quicker healing, why wouldn't patients benefit? Some experts think it's because the differences in pain and healing times are so small that patients don't really notice them.

Companies selling bone stimulators often emphasize these differences, making them sound significant. However, it's important to remember that the actual benefits for individuals using a bone stimulator might be minimal and not necessarily felt by the patient. Still, in certain situations, a bone stimulator could be helpful.


Is this necessary?

Bone stimulators are currently not necessary for routine fracture healing. There's no proof backing their use for standard fractures as they haven't been proven to enhance patient outcomes.

It's possible that in the future, bone healing stimulators might become standard practice. However, currently, there's no evidence supporting their efficacy in routine fracture healing. Nevertheless, they appear to offer some advantages in cases of non-healing fractures or those anticipated to be challenging to heal. Factors contributing to difficult healing may include damage to the fracture's blood supply, injuries to specific bones, and fractures caused by overuse. These injuries may involve:

  • Open fractures 
  • Stress fractures 
  • Scaphoid bone fractures 
  • Talus fractures

Besides bone stimulators, there exist other established methods for expediting fracture healing. While some may seem obvious, their significance during the healing process cannot be emphasized enough. It is vital to abstain from smoking, maintain a nutritious diet, and ensure adequate nutritional intake. These measures should be prioritized long before considering the use of a bone stimulator.

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