Broken bones can be healed more quickly by using pulses of high-frequency sound, a new trial has found.
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Scientists made the discovery after testing the therapy on patients who had broken shin bones, or tibias, which had not healed properly.
During the trial, half of the 100 patients were treated using the ultrasound device.
The rest of the participants were treated with a “sham” device.
Researchers noticed that over the 16 week trial, the patients being treated with the “real” device had a 34% greater bone density at the injury site, compared with the other group of patients.
The treatment, called LIPUS (low-intensity pulsed ultrasound) is delivered by a small emitter linked to a handheld controller.
Therapy sessions lasting 20 minutes were conducted every day throughout the study period.
The research was conducted by a team of German scientists backed by global medical devices manufacturer Smith and Nephew.
Dr John Block, a US consultant for the company based in San Francisco, said: “These findings demonstrate significantly greater progress toward bone healing after LIPUS treatment compared to no LIPUS treatment in subjects with established delayed unions of the tibia.
“This should assist in establishing this non-invasive modality as a viable, effective treatment option for patients suffering these injuries.”
The trial results were reported in the online journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Currently “non-unions” are tackled with complex and costly procedures, which involve grafting on extra pieces of bone and the use of growth-promoting chemicals.
Ultrasound has been shown to accelerate fracture healing by boosting the activity of osteoblasts, the cells that synthesise bone.