There are many scenarios where you may need a bone stimulator. Some of these include:
• A non-healing broken bone, especially if you have one of the following conditions listed below, which will drastically increase the risk of a bone not healing.
• Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, vascular disease, immunosuppressive medications, tobacco usage, or alcoholism.
• Surgery that used pins and screws to fix a bone
• Charcot arthropathy
On average, under ideal conditions a bone takes 6-8 weeks to heal. However, the above situations and conditions may lead to a delay in the bone healing process or may not allow the bone to heal at all. In these cases, a bone stimulator should be utilized. The following are frequently asked questions about bone stimulators.
What is a bone stimulator and how does a bone stimulator work?
• A bone stimulator is a device that can either be surgically implanted near the broken bone or it can be worn over a cast. The bone stimulator functions to help bone heal. Exactly how bone stimulators work is complicated, but can be easily summarized. There are three different types of stimulators, which include electric current, electromagnetic, and ultrasound devices. All three work similarly by activating and increasing the necessary bone growth factors and cells needed for bone production. The amount of time a bone stimulator is worn varies between the different types of device. Some devices therapy is for 24 hours where other devices may only need to be worn for 20 minutes per day.
When would I need to use a bone stimulator?
• Bone stimulators are not usually prescribed to patients until there is no bone healing seen. Most patients will receive a bone stimulator if a broken bone is not healed within 3 months and has not shown any signs of healing. Bone stimulators are very expensive and insurance companies will not cover them unless there are signs that the bone is not healing.
Does the bone stimulator hurt or does it make noise?
• Bone stimulators are painless; it is the broken bone that is painful. Bone stimulators are silent and may only make noise to let you know that the therapy session has ended.
Do I still need to where a cast if I am using a bone stimulator?
• Yes. In order for bone to heal and heal in proper alignment, the two ends of the one must remain still. If you are putting weight and walking on the broken bone the ends will be moving and no new bone will be able to form, despite wearing a bone stimulator. In addition, the weight may cause the boney ends to become displaced, which will increase the gap and the amount of new bone needed to heal the fracture.
Is there scientific evidence that bone stimulators work?
• Yes. There is an abundance of research that has shown that all of the different types of bone stimulators are effective with helping bone heal that previously was unable to heal on its own. In fact, on average, the healing rate with a bone stimulator is about 90%. There has been no research that has shown one type of bone stimulator that is superior.
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American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine