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Kertzman, Paulo; Csaszar, Nikolaus B. M.; Furia, John P. and Schmitz, Christoph (2017): Radial extracorporeal shock wave therapy is efficient and safe in the treatment of fracture nonunions of superficial bones: a retrospective case series. In: Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research 12:164 [PDF, 1MB]

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Background: A substantial body of evidence supports the use of focused extracorporeal shock wave therapy (fESWT) in the non-invasive treatment of fracture nonunions. On the other hand, virtually no studies exist on the use of radial extracorporeal shock wave therapy (rESWT) for this indication. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed 22 patients treated with rESWT for fracture nonunions of superficial bones that failed to heal despite initial surgical fixation in most cases. Radial extracorporeal shock wave therapy was applied without anesthesia in three rESWT sessions on average, with one rESWT session per week and 3000 radial extracorporeal shock waves at an energy flux density of 0.18 mJ/mm(2) per session. Treatment success was monitored with radiographs and clinical examinations. Results: Six months after rESWT radiographic union was confirmed in 16 out of 22 patients (73%), which is similar to the success rate achieved in comparable studies using fESWT. There were no side effects. The tibia was the most common treatment site (10/22) and 70% of tibia nonunions healed within 6 months after rESWT. Overall, successfully treated patients showed a mean time interval of 8.8 +/- 0.8 (mean +/- standard error of the mean) months between initial fracture and commencement of rESWT whereas in unsuccessfully treated patients the mean interval was 26.0 +/- 10.1 months (p < 0.05). In unsuccessful tibia cases, the mean interval was 43.3 +/- 13.9 months. Conclusions: Radial extracorporeal shock wave therapy appears to be an effective and safe alternative in the management of fracture nonunions of superficial bones if diagnosed early and no fESWT device is available. The promising preliminary results of the present case series should encourage the implementation of randomized controlled trials for the early use of rESWT in fracture nonunions.

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