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Crit Rev Biomed Eng. 1989;17(5):451-529.

Fundamental and practical aspects of therapeutic uses of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs).

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1
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Abstract

The beneficial therapeutic effects of selected low-energy, time-varying magnetic fields, called PEMFs, have been documented with increasing frequency since 1973. Initially, this form of athermal energy was used mainly as a salvage for patients with long-standing juvenile and adult nonunions. Many of these individuals were candidates for amputation. Their clearly documented resistance to the usual forms of surgical treatment, including bone grafting, served as a reasonable control in judging the efficacy of this new therapeutic method, particularly when PEMFs were the sole change in patient management. More recently, the biological effectiveness of this approach in augmenting bone healing has been confirmed by several highly significant double-blind and controlled prospective studies in less challenging clinical circumstances. Furthermore, double-blind evidence of therapeutic effects in other clinical disorders has emerged. These data, coupled with well-controlled laboratory findings on pertinent mechanisms of action, have begun to place PEMFs on a therapeutic par with surgically invasive methods but at considerably less risk and cost. As a result of these clinical observations and concerns about electromagnetic "pollution", interactions of nonionizing electromagnetic fields with biological processes have been the subject of increasing investigational activity. Over the past decade, the number of publications on these topics has risen exponentially. They now include textbooks, speciality journals, regular reviews by government agencies, in addition to individual articles, appearing in the wide spectrum of peer-reviewed, scientific sources. In a recent editorial in Current Contents, the editor reviews the frontiers of biomedical engineering focusing on Science Citation Index methods for identifying core research endeavors. Dr. Garfield chose PEMFs from among other biomedical engineering efforts as an example of a rapidly emerging discipline. Three new societies in the bioelectromagnetics, bioelectrochemistry, and bioelectrical growth and repair have been organized during this time, along with a number of national and international committees and conferences. These activities augment a continuing interest by the IEEE in the U.S. and the IEE in the U.K. This review focuses on the principles and practice behind the therapeutic use of "PEMFs". This term is restricted to time-varying magnetic field characteristics that induce voltage waveform patterns in bone similar to those resulting from mechanical deformation. These asymmetric, broad-band pulses affect a number of biologic processes athermally. Many of these processes appear to have the ability to modify selected pathologic states in the musculoskeletal and other systems.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

PMID:
2686932
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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