Bone healing procedure ‘inefficient’:study

A procedure recommended by health officials to speed up healing for broken bones does not improve outcomes for patients, a new study has found.


Low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) devices are marketed to accelerate recovery from a fracture.

Guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2010 says there is “clinical benefit” to using the procedure, particularly among patients with “delayed healing and fracture non-union”.

But a new study, published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), concluded LIPUS “fails to accelerate return to work, return to full weight-bearing and pain reduction or reduce the need for subsequent operation”.

A linked guideline suggests the LIPUS, which has been used for more than two decades to promote bone healing, does not represent an “efficient use of health resources”.

Experts carried out a detailed analysis of the evidence on the use of these ultrasound devices.

After examining data from 26 trials, they concluded LIPUS did not reduce time to return to work or the number of subsequent operations for patients.

And when only trials at low risk of bias were considered, the technique did not reduce days to weight-bearing or a patient’s pain.

The authors of the linked guideline wrote: “We have moderate to high certainty of a lack of benefit for outcomes important to patients and, combined with the high costs of treatment, LIPUS represents an inefficient use of limited healthcare resources.”

About four out of every 100 people experience a fracture each year and between five per cent and 10 per cent of these cases will experience slow or complicated healing.