Ultrasound to Accelerate Fracture Healing

Ultrasound is a sound in a frequency of a range that humans cannot hear. The sound waves are produced by a machine and applied through a probe to the skin surface. Ultrasound is used for many medical applications including imaging (often used to image pregnancies), therapeutic (deep tissue heating), and treatment (as is the case with fracture healing).

Female technologist performing ultrasound on patient
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Ultrasound for Bone Healing

Ultrasound has several effects of healing bone that may alter the rate at which fractures unite. Ultrasound causes effects ranging from small temperature changes is the tissue to increased gene expression. It is not known which effect of ultrasound on cells alters the healing process.

There is some scientific evidence showing that certain fractures, specifically fresh fractures, can show faster healing with the use of ultrasound. There is also evidence that these devices can help in patients who have poor healing potential including diabetics, smokers, and patients taking oral steroid medications.

Bottom Line

There is really no evidence to support the use of ultrasound in the routine use of fracture healing. In studies that have been done, fractures tend to heal regardless of the use of ultrasound. Therefore, the routine use of ultrasound is not recommended, although some doctors recommend using this technology for some complex fractures that may have problems healing.

Most of the benefit of ultrasound have been found in non-clinical settings. This means that while ultrasound has been shown to influence bone activity in a laboratory setting, the clinical effects in the real world have been less impressive. Ultrasound has been shown to have beneficial effects in fracture healing but is probably only useful in situations where healing potential is limited.

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  1. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Ultrasound.

  2. Watanabe Y, Matsushita T, Bhandari M, Zdero R, Schemitsch EH. Ultrasound for fracture healing: current evidence. J Orthop Trauma. 2010;24 Suppl 1:S56-61. doi:10.1097/BOT.0b013e3181d2efaf

  3. Yang MH, Lim KT, Choung PH, Cho CS, Chung JH. Application of ultrasound stimulation in bone tissue engineering. Int J Stem Cells. 2010;3(2):74-9. doi:10.15283/ijsc.2010.3.2.74

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