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Ultrasound Helps Heal Broken Bones

Ultrasound Helps Heal Broken Bones

Ultrasound has been shown to help fractures help by up to 40 percent…

Scottish doctors in the city that originally pioneered ultrasound have found a revolutionary new use for technology traditionally used to produce images of unborn babies inside the womb.

Angus MacLean, an orthopedic surgeon at Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary’s fracture clinic, has been using ultrasound to heal broken bones, and the treatment is proving rather successful.

MacLean reports that ultrasound can speed up the recovery time of severe fractures by 40 percent. One patient, apprentice engineer Gary Denham was offered the treatment after he fell 20ft (6m) from a water tank and shattered his ankle into eight pieces. The injury was so severe that there was a chance it would never heal and might have to be amputated. After completing the treatment, Mr. Denham was on hit feet again within months.

The exact science behind why ultrasound helps bones heal is still being studied, however current research suggest that the frequency of the ultrasound waves encourages cells to remove bacteria, stimulating the production of new bone cells.

Unfortunately the cost of the treatment is still expensive, around $2000 per person, so it’s only being used on those with fracture that are difficult to heal. But costs are expected to drop as the technology is advanced.

MacLean said:

“We use it for difficult fractures, the ones with problems with healing, and it’s a very simple, painless treatment that we can give…

“It’s a very interesting scientific development and there’s good evidence that it just vibrates the cells a little which then stimulates healing and regeneration in the bone..

“The evidence suggests that ultrasound speeds things up by about 40%, but the main interest for me is to use it to make sure the bone heals rather than the bone not ‘knitting’ together which then leads to serious problems.” [BBC]


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  1. Eleanor Bradford: Glasgow surgeon using ultrasound to treat fractures. BBC, 10/12/2011.

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