Doctors in Scotland have taken ultrasound technology – which we commonly associate with imaging baby bumps – and used it to treat fractured bones.
For patients with really bad breaks, the tech has sped up recovery time by about 40%. BBC reports.
As a diagnostic tool, ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce precise images of things inside our body. It’s like sonar. And it was developed in Glasgow during the 1950s.
Turns out, the pulsing also vibrates cells a little, which then stimulates healing and regeneration in the bone.
By emitting sound at a certain frequency and pulse, ultrasound tech can encourage cells to remove bacteria, stimulate the production of new bone cells, and help those cells to mature more rapidly.
It could become a “simple, painless treatment” for fractures that don’t heal well, according to orthopedic surgeon Angus MacLean at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary's fracture clinic.
For ultrasound patient Gary Denham, who fell 20 feet from a water tank and broke his ankle into 8 pieces (pictured), the treatment healed his leg after 4 months.
"It's got a wee strap and that goes round where the break was," Denham says. "I put some gel on the probe and then I just put the probe inside the strap and then just basically leave it for 20 minutes."
Watch a video here.
For now, the technique is still prohibitively expensive – around $1,500 per patient, making it only cost effective for people with really complex breaks.
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