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J Neurosurg Spine. 2014 Jul;21(1):133-9. doi: 10.3171/2014.4.SPINE14326.

Guideline update for the performance of fusion procedures for degenerative disease of the lumbar spine. Part 17: bone growth stimulators as an adjunct for lumbar fusion.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Columbia University, New York, New York;


The relationship between the formation of a solid arthrodesis and electrical and electromagnetic energy is well established; most of the information on the topic, however, pertains to the healing of long bone fractures. The use of both invasive and noninvasive means to supply this energy and supplement spinal fusions has been investigated. Three forms of electrical stimulation are routinely used: direct current stimulation (DCS), pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation (PEMFS), and capacitive coupled electrical stimulation (CCES). Only DCS requires the placement of electrodes within the fusion substrate and is inserted at the time of surgery. Since publication of the original guidelines, few studies have investigated the use of bone growth stimulators. Based on the current review, no conflict with the previous recommendations was generated. The use of DCS is recommended as an option for patients younger than 60 years of age, since a positive effect on fusion has been observed. The same, however, cannot be stated for patients over 60, because DCS did not appear to have an impact on fusion rates in this population. No study was reviewed that investigated the use of CCES or the routine use of PEMFS. A single low-level study demonstrated a positive impact of PEMFS on patients undergoing revision surgery for pseudarthrosis, but this single study is insufficient to recommend for or against the use of PEMFS in this patient population.


BMP = bone morphogenetic protein; CCES = capacitive coupled electrical stimulation; DCS = direct current stimulation; DEXA = dual energy x-ray absorptiometry; DPQ = Dallas Pain Questionnaire; LBPRS = Low Back Pain Rating Scale; PEMFS = pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation; SF-36 = 36-Item Short Form Health Survey; VAS = visual analog scale; bone growth stimulator; lumbar fusion; lumbar spine; practice guidelines

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