Joint Preservation Blog

January 8, 2009

Bone Stimulators

As a doctor, patients with a fracture that won’t heal can be in quite a pickle. There are many bone stimulators on the market including the Exogen, the Symphony bone growth stimulator, and the mbi bone growth stimulator. How does a bone stimulator work ? There are two main types, ultrasound based and an electrical bone stimulator. The ultrasound type works by emitting a pulsed low intensity ultrasound signal (PLIUS). This has been shown to stimulate mesenchymal stem cells which turn into osteoblasts which are cells that make new bone. An electrical bone growth stimulator works in much the same way. It’s usually worth using one of these units for 6-12 weeks. What if using a bone stimulator doesn’t work? Bone grafting is one option, but a big surgery. Is there another way? Yes, newer stem cell based injection methods can avoid the surgery and use your own stem cells to heal the fracture. I’ve posted two videos below on the subject:

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electrical stimulation for fracture healing

As a doctor, one of the most difficult problems a patient can face is is a bone that won’t  heal.  One of the most miserable patients I can rememeber was a little old lady with a sacral fracture who at three months after her fracture couldn’t even go to physical therapy because the fracture wasn’t healing.  She had tried electrical stimulation for fracture healing, but this failed.  Other patients who come to mind are a thirty something smoker with an non-healing humerus fracture and a 60 something geologist with a leg fracture (tib-fib non-union).  They all had one thing in common, they could barely do anything.  What other options are there for these patients?  One option is as we’ve discussed, electrical stimulation for fracture healing.  There are also other types of fracture healing assist devices, including PLIUS or Pulsed Low Intensity Ultrasound.  These units can help, but what to do when they fail?  The issue is often a poor blood supply to the fracture.  As a result, surgeons traditionally try a bone graft with it’s own blood supply.  However, this is a very big surgery.  Is there another way to heal these fractures that won’t heal on their own?  Yes, recent research into adult stem cells have shown them capable of fracture repair.  How did we heal up the three fractures described above?  By injecting the patient’s own adult stem cells into the fracture lines (without bone graft surgery).  The little old lady?  Independent in 6 weeks with a healed scaral compression fracture.  The smoker?  Healed in 6 weeks and had full function of her arm.  The 60 some year old geologist with the tib-fib non-union?  Same.  All without surgery.  Below is a video that explains more:

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