Fracture Repair with Ultrasound: Clinical and Cell-Based Evaluation

Khan, Yusuf; Laurencin, Cato T.
February 2008
Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, American Volume;Feb2008 Supplement 1, Vol. 90-A, p138
Academic Journal
Fracture repair continues to be widely investigated, both within the clinical realm and at the fundamental research level, in part due to the fact that 5% to 10% of fractures result in either delayed union or nonunion, depending on the duration of incomplete healing. Beyond the temporal delay in repair, nonunions share the same unifying characteristic: all periosteal and endosteal repair processes have stopped and the fracture will not heal without surgical intervention. A less-invasive alternative method—low-intensity pulsed ultrasound—has shown promise as a treatment for delayed unions and nonunions and as a method to facilitate distraction osteogenesis. In this paper, we summarize the clinical effectiveness of low-intensity pulsed ultrasound with regard to fracture repair, treatment of nonunion, and distraction osteogenesis and we discuss the results of a multitude of published studies that have sought to elucidate the mechanisms behind that effectiveness through research on low-intensity pulsed ultrasound exposure on osteoblasts and osteoblast precursors. When evaluated clinically, low-intensity pulsed ultrasound was shown to enhance bone repair (most commonly noted as a decrease in healing time), although variations in patient population hindered a definitive claim to clinical effectiveness. In vitro cellular evaluation and in vivo studies on animal models have revealed an increase in cell proliferation, protein synthesis, collagen synthesis, membrane permeability, integrin expression, and increased cytosolic Ca2+ levels as well as other increased indicators of bone repair in response to low-intensity pulsed ultrasound exposure. Many of the cellular responses to low-intensity pulsed ultrasound mirror the cellular responses to fluid-induced shear flow, suggesting a link between the two as one potential mechanism of action.


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