Hospital for Special Surgery Finds Ultrasound Helps Fractures Heal

New York, NY—April 1, 1999

A small, portable ultrasound device has been shown to speed up the healing process of broken bones, allowing some patients to avoid a second or even third operation, according to physicians at Hospital for Special Surgery. Hundreds of thousands of people break a bone each year, and a small percentage of patients have trouble healing. It may be a bad fracture, or the patient may have certain risk factures that interfere with the healing process. In the past, this sometimes meant they had to go back to the operating room. But now there’s an alternative: a portable low-intensity ultrasound device. According to Dr. Joseph Lane, Chief of Metabolic Bone Diseases at HSS, ultrasound has been shown to be remarkably successful in both accelerating the healing process and in repairing fractures that do not heal with conventional therapy.

Maire O’Rourke, one of Dr. Lane’s patients, was on the brink of losing hope when she was prescribed the device. She had been the victim of a terrible accident. One day, while standing in the street, a truck backed into her, shattering a bone in her leg. Six months after surgery, the fracture of her thigh bone still had not healed. She was prescribed the ultrasound device, and within six weeks, she was back on her feet. Mrs. O’Rourke, who had been incapable of getting around on her own after the accident, is now walking with the help of a cane.

The ultrasound unit, which is non-invasive and simple to use, is strapped to the patient’s leg. Once turned on, sound waves penetrate the tissue and reach the bone. Although the specific mechanism by which ultrasound accelerates the fracture-repair process is not completely understood, Dr. Lane says the sound waves seem to trick the bone into thinking the patient is engaging in strenuous exercise. He says using the device for 20 minutes a day seems to be the equivalent of performing four hours of exercise, and this load on the bone cells is what helps in healing.

Dr. Lane and his colleagues evaluated the data from clinical trials that took place across the country and found that ultrasound accelerated the healing process in the majority of cases. He presented the findings at the annual meeting of the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in Anaheim, California.

About Hospital for Special Surgery
Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. HSS is nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2017-2018), and is the first hospital in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. HSS has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. HSS is an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College and as such all Hospital for Special Surgery medical staff are faculty of Weill Cornell. The hospital's research division is internationally recognized as a leader in the investigation of musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases. HSS has locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.


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