Low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) is a common adjunct used to promote bone healing for fresh fractures and non-unions, but its efficacy for bone distraction osteogenesis remains uncertain. This study aims to determine whether LIPUS can effectively and safely reduce the associated treatment time for patients undergoing distraction osteogenesis.
MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library were searched until May 1, 2018, without language restriction. Studies should be randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs of LIPUS compared with sham devices or no devices in patients who undergo distraction osteogenesis. The primary outcome was the treatment time. The secondary outcome was the risk of complications. Treatment effects were assessed using mean differences, standardized mean differences, or risk ratios using a random-effects model. The Cochrane risk-of-bias tool was used to assess the risk of bias. The I2 statistic was used to assess the heterogeneity. The GRADE system was used to evaluate the evidence quality.
A total of 7 trials with 172 patients were included. The pooled results suggested that during the process of distraction osteogenesis, LIPUS therapy did not show a statistically significant reduction in the treatment time (mean difference, - 8.75 days/cm; 95% CI, - 20.68 to 3.18 days/cm; P = 0.15; I2 = 72%) or in the risk of complications (risk ratio, 0.90 in favor of LIPUS; 95% CI, 0.65 to 1.24; I2 = 0%). Also, LIPUS therapy did not show a significant effect on the radiological gap fill area (standardized mean difference, 0.48 in favor of control; 95%CI, - 1.49 to 0.52; I2 = 0%), the histological gap fill length (standardized mean difference, 0.76 in favor of control; 95%CI, - 1.78 to 0.27; I2 = 0%), or the bone density increase (standardized mean difference, 0.43 in favor of LIPUS; 95%CI, - 0.02 to 0.88; I2 = 0%).
Among patients undergoing distraction osteogenesis, neither the treatment time nor the risk of complications could be reduced by LIPUS therapy. The currently available evidence is insufficient to support the routine use of this intervention in clinical practice.