Low-intensity pulsed ultrasound: Nonunions
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Nonunions occur in 5-10% of fractures and are characterized by the failure to heal without further intervention. Low intensity pulsed ultrasound therapy has been developed as an alternative to surgery in the treatment of nonunions. We describe a systematic review on trials of low-intensity pulsed ultrasound therapy for healing of nonunions. We searched the electronic databases Medline and the Cochrane library for articles on ultrasound and healing of nonunions published up to 2008. Trials selected for the review met the following criteria: treatment of at least one intervention group with low intensity pulsed ultrasound; inclusion of patients (humans) with one or more nonunions (defined as "established" or as a failure to heal for a minimum of eight months after initial injury); and assessment of healing and time to healing, as determined radiographically. The following data were abstracted from the included studies: sample size, ultrasound treatment characteristics, nonunion location, healing rate, time to fracture healing, fracture age, and demographic information. We found 79 potentially eligible publications, of which 14 met our inclusion criteria. Of these, eight studies were used for data abstraction. Healing rates averaged 87%, (range 65.6%-100%) among eight trials. Mean time to healing was 146.5 days, (range 56-219 days). There is evidence from trials that low-intensity pulsed ultrasound may be an effective treatment for healing of nonunions. More homogeneous and larger controlled series are needed to further investigate its efficacy.
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