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Ultrasound after tibial fracture does not speed up healing

Receiving ultrasound after surgery to repair a fractured tibia does not accelerate healing or improve functional recovery, according to new research. 
ultrasound

Receiving ultrasound after surgery to repair a fractured tibia does not accelerate healing or improve functional recovery, according to new research

Low intensity pulsed ultrasonography (LIPUS) was approved for fracture healing in the United States by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1994, and is used widely across North America. But trials investigating its effectiveness have been inconclusive.

Researchers in the United States and Canada therefore studied 501 adults who underwent surgery for a tibial fracture between October 2008 and September 2012. Each patient received either an active or sham ultrasound device to use once a day for 20 minutes at home.

They stopped using the device at the 52-week follow up visit or when their surgeon determined the fracture showed radiographic healing whichever occurred first.

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Receiving ultrasound after surgery to repair a fractured tibia does not accelerate healing or improve functional recovery, according to new research


The low intensity pulsed ultrasonography was first approved for use in 1994. Picture: Alamy

Low intensity pulsed ultrasonography (LIPUS) was approved for fracture healing in the United States by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1994, and is used widely across North America. But trials investigating its effectiveness have been inconclusive.

Researchers in the United States and Canada therefore studied 501 adults who underwent surgery for a tibial fracture between October 2008 and September 2012. Each patient received either an active or sham ultrasound device to use once a day for 20 minutes at home. 

They stopped using the device at the 52-week follow up visit or when their surgeon determined the fracture showed radiographic healing – whichever occurred first. 

The main study outcome was time until fracture healing over one year, assessed with radiographs. Other outcomes included important functional and quality of life measures reported by patients, such as return to work and leisure activities, and time until full weight bearing. 

The researchers found no significant differences between the two groups for any outcome, leading them to conclude that ‘addition of LIPUS to usual care for patients with fracture failed to accelerate radiographic healing or improve function.’ 


Busse J W et al (2016) Re-evaluation of low intensity pulsed ultrasound in treatment of tibial fractures (TRUST): randomized clinical trial. BMJ. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i5351

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