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Electrical Stimulation Not Linked to Better Spinal Fusion

Last Updated: October 16, 2009.

Electrical stimulation following spinal fusion surgery wasn't effective in improving fusion rates in older patients, but was associated with a tendency toward better functional outcome, according to two articles published in the Oct. 1 issue of Spine.

FRIDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Electrical stimulation following spinal fusion surgery wasn't effective in improving fusion rates in older patients, but was associated with a tendency toward better functional outcome, according to two articles published in the Oct. 1 issue of Spine.

Thomas Andersen, M.D., of the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, and colleagues analyzed data from 107 patients older than 60 years who were randomized to receive uninstrumented posterolateral lumbar spinal fusion with or without direct current electrical stimulation. After one year, patients in the pooled treatment groups had significantly better outcome in three of four categories in the Dallas Pain Questionnaire, which was used to measure functional outcome. However, there was no difference between groups in Low Back Pain Rating Scale scores. The stimulated group showed a trend toward better median walking distance.

In the other article, the authors note that fusion rates were low in both groups at two-year follow-up, and stimulation had no effect on rates (35 percent in the stimulated group versus 36 percent in controls). Those attaining a solid fusion on computed tomography had better functional outcome and pain scores at their latest follow-up.

"In conclusion, this study demonstrated that surgery led to an improvement in functional outcome and that the achievement of a good functional outcome after spinal fusion in older patients is heavily dependent on obtaining a good walking distance. DC-stimulation might have a positive effect on the results of fusion in this patient category," the authors conclude in the first paper.

The authors reported that corporate funds were received for the research.

Abstract - Part 1
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Abstract - Part 2
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