Electric and electromagnetic fields are, collectively, one form of biophysical technique which regulate extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis and may be useful in clinically stimulating repair of fractures and nonunions. Preclinical studies have shown that electric and electromagnetic fields regulate proteoglycan (PG) and collagen synthesis in models of endochondral ossification, and increase bone formation in vivo and in vitro. A substantial number of clinical studies have been done that suggest acceleration of bone formation and healing, particularly osteotomies and spine fusions, by electric and electromagnetic fields. Many of these studies have used randomized, placebo controlled designs. In osteotomy trials, greater bone density, trabecular maturation, and radiographic healing were observed in actively treated, compared with placebo-treated patients. In spine fusions, average union rates of 80% to 90% were observed in actively treated patients across numerous studies compared with 65% to 75% in placebo-treated patients. Uncontrolled, longitudinal cohort studies of delayed and nonunions report mean union rates of approximately 75% to 85% in fractures previously refractory to healing. The few randomized controlled studies in delayed and nonunions suggest improved results with electric and electromagnetic fields compared with placebo treatment, and equivalent to bone grafts.
From the *Department of Orthopaedics, Brown Medical School, Providence, RI and the †EBI Medical Systems, Parsippany, NJ.
Received for publication May 15, 2003.
Funding for this study was received from NIH AR02128 and EBI Medical Systems, Inc.
Reprints: Roy K. Aaron, MD, 100 Butler Drive, Providence, RI 02906 (e-mail: Roy_Aaron@brown.edu).