Fractures treated with ultrasound technology

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Surgeons from the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland have discovered an innovative new use for ultrasound technology. Ultrasound treatments...

Surgeons from the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland have discovered an innovative new use for ultrasound technology.

Ultrasound treatments have become a familiar sight in the hospital’s fracture clinic, where doctors are using it to heal broken bones.

It has been described as a simple and painless treatment and surgeons believe it can speed up the recovery time of fracture patients, in some case by as much as a third.

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Orthopaedic surgeon Angus MacLean is one of the doctors behind this unusual use of ultrasound.

Talking to BBC Scotland, MacLean explained exactly how the technology is used to treat broken bones:  “We use it for difficult fractures, the ones with problems with healing and it's a very simple, painless treatment that we can give.”

At the moment the use of ultrasound has been limited to very severe or problem fractures, because the treatment costs in the region of £1000 for each patient.

MacLean added: “It's a very interesting scientific development and there's good evidence that it just vibrates the cells a little which then stimulates healing and regeneration in the bone.”

 “The evidence suggests that ultrasound speeds things up by about 40 percent, but the main interest for me is to use it to make sure the bone heals rather than the bone not 'knitting' together which then leads to serious problems,” he said.

One patient that has benefitted from ultrasound healing is Gary Denham, after falling and breaking his ankle into eight pieces.

Upon initial inspection if the injury, doctors feared the injury was sound bad his foot would have to be amputated.

However, after undergoing the ultrasound treatment his injury had healed within four months.

MacClean commented on Gary’s case. He said: “Before we used ultrasound I would expect to see this kind of injury healing with some difficulty, and some of them don't heal at all.

“Even if they do heal, it can take between six and 12 months and patients have ongoing pain during that time.

Gary also told the BBC about his experiences with the novel treatment: “It's got a wee strap and that goes round where the break was.

“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. There's no sensation at all, it's completely painless,” he said.

“I'd never heard of it before, but my leg healed after four months and I'm looking to go back to work within eight months.”

The team at the Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary Hospital have always been seen as leaders in the development of ultrasound, after it produced the first images of a human body using the technology in the 1950s.

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