Extracorporeal shockwave therapy: A systematic review of its use in fracture management
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Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is increasingly used as an adjuvant therapy in the management of nonunions, delayed unions and more recently fresh fractures. This is in an effort to increase union rates or obtain unions when fractures have proven recalcitrant to healing. In this report we have systematically reviewed the English language literature to attempt to determine the potential clinical efficacy of extracorporeal shockwave therapy in fracture management. Of 32 potentially eligible studies identified, 10 were included that assessed the extracorporeal shockwave therapy use for healing nonunions or delayed unions, and one trial was included that assessed its use for acute high-energy fractures. From the included, studies' overall union rates were in favor of extracorporeal shockwave therapy (72% union rate overall for nonunions or delayed unions, and a 46% relative risk reduction in nonunions when it is used for acute high-energy fractures). However, the methodologic quality of included studies was weak and any clinical inferences made from these data should be interpreted with caution. Further research in this area in the form of a large-scale randomized trial is necessary to better answer the question of the effectiveness of extracorporeal shockwave therapy on union rates for both nonunions and acute fractures.
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