Millions of fractures occur every year worldwide, with nearly 6.2 million fractures reported annually in the United States alone. Even though treatment methods have improved over the last few decades, 5-10% of fractures still show delayed healing. A significant subpopulation of these delayed healings do not heal by nine months and are thus termed non-unions. Experimental studies have shown some evidence that low intensity pulsed ultrasound stimulation (LIPUS) results in enhanced bone regeneration during fracture healing and callus distraction. LIPUS treatment has led to increased callus area and accelerated return of bone strength following fracture. Histological studies suggest that LIPUS influences all major cell types involved in bone healing, including osteoblasts, osteoclasts, chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells. The affect of LIPUS seems to be limited to cells in soft tissue, whereas cells in calcified bone seem not to be effected. In vitro cell culture studies as well as tissue culture studies have shown some effects on cell differentiation and protein synthesis. Even though the energy used by LIPUS treatment is extremely low, the effects are evident. The most probable source of the therapeutic benefits observed with LIPUS treatment involves nonthermal mechanisms that influence cell membrane permeability and increase cellular activity. Despite clinical and experimental studies demonstrating the enhancing effect of LIPUS on bone regeneration, the biophysical mechanisms involved in the complex fracture healing process remain unclear and requires further research. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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