Serum levels of bone markers were measured prospectively for 1 year in 30 adult patients with an intramedullary fixed tibial fracture. In a double blinded design, half of the patients received low intensity ultrasound. All fractures healed, although in seven of 30 the healing was delayed more than 6 months. There was no significant difference in radiologic healing time between the ultrasound group (median, 113 days) and the placebo group (median, 112 days). The marker for bone resorption, crosslinked telo-peptide, peaked at 1 to 4 weeks, whereas markers for bone formation peaked at 10 to 16 weeks for bone specific alkaline phosphatase and osteocalcin. Crosslinked telopeptide was lower at 1 week in patients treated with ultrasound than in those receiving placebo. Patients with delayed healing did not differ in crosslinked telopeptide compared with patients with normal healing. There were no differences in bone formation markers between patients who received ultrasound or placebo. Patients with delayed healing had lower levels of bone specific alkaline phosphatase between 4 and 7 weeks than did patients with normal healing, although no such differences were seen for osteocalcin. The results indicate that low intensity ultrasound might slow bone resorption, although there is no visible effect on bone formation. Patients with delayed healing had adequate bone resorption but slower early bone formation than did patients with normal healing.
*From the Departments of Orthopaedics Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.
**Clinical Chemistry, and Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.
†Diagnostic Radiology, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.