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Spine Fusion Update: Are Women More Magnetic Than Men?

When a back injury requires surgery, fusion is often the method of repair. Small pieces of bone are placed alongside the damaged area. This builds a bridge of bone to support the spine. Sometimes metal screws or plates are used to immobilize the area and speed healing. A quick and complete healing of the bone is important for full recovery after fusion.

Bone can be stimulated to grow with the right kind of treatment. Doctors are studying electrical and electromagnetic fields to aid the healing process. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of this treatment method in 1979. Since that time, this has moved from being implanted surgically to a strap-on unit in current use.

The first-ever study of this device in humans has been reported. Over 200 patients in 10 centers were included. Only those patients with bone grafts (but no metal implants) took part in the study. Everyone wore the device over the fusion, but not everyone received the stimulation. For purposes of the study, the patients and doctors didn't know who had an active unit. For those with the active unit, the combined magnetic fields were applied every day for 30 minutes.

Treatment of spinal fusion with combined magnetic fields seems to be most effective in women. Fusion occurred in 67 percent of women with active devices. This was compared with only 35 percent of those women with a device that wasn't active. There was no significant difference among men with or without the active device. Researchers don't know how to explain this. Perhaps there is a difference in body functions between men and women. Or maybe women truly are more magnetic.


Raymond J. Linovitz, MD, et al. Combined Magnetic Fields Accelerate and Increase Spine Fusion. In Spine. July 1, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 13. Pp. 1383-1389.

07/31/2002

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