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What Is An Electronic Bone Stimulator?

If you’re having a spinal fusion surgery your doctor may also use an electronic bone stimulator. But what is it and how does it work?

What is an Electronic Bone Stimulator?

During a spinal fusion surgery two or more bones of the spine are fused, or “welded” together. During the surgery the surgeon may insert artificial or transplanted bone graft material between the vertebrae. However, the actual fusion is created after surgery as your body heals. Bones are a living tissue and, as such, are continually growing and healing themselves. After a spinal fusion surgery, the adjacent vertebrae each grow into the bone graft creating one solid bone mass.

what is an electronic bone stimulatorBone growth stimulators attempt to encourage the bones natural healing process via electronic stimulation. An electromagnetic field is created in the area in an effort to initiate the natural healing process.

Are Bone Stimulators Used with Every Spinal Fusion Surgery?

No, bone stimulators are not always necessary with spinal fusion surgery.

However, they may be helpful for some patients for whom their doctor suspects the fusion may not be successful. For example, patients who smoke, had previously had a failed spinal fusion surgery, or are having more than two vertebrae fused together may benefit from the use of a bold simulator. In addition, if the patient has osteoporosis, diabetes, or depleted calcium, their bones may not grow as quickly and stimulation may be helpful.

Read more about how smoking affects your spine.

How Do Electronic Bone Stimulators Work?

There are two major types of bone stimulators, internal and external.

Internal Bone Growth Stimulators

With an internal bone stimulator, the device is placed under the skin near the affected area of the spine during surgery. The device is active for six to twelve months, after which, it may be removed during a quick outpatient procedure, or it may be left inside. Internal stimulators work automatically, without patient involvement, and the patient doesn’t feel any pain or electrical sensations from the device.

External Bone Growth Stimulators

External bone stimulators exist only on the outside of the body. Nothing needs to be implanted for the device to work. Therefore, it can be used after surgery if your doctor feels the bones are not fusing. With some external devices, the patient places small pads (electrodes) on their skin near the fusion. Other types are fitted and worn next to the surgical site. The doctor prescribes an amount of time for the stimulator to be active. External stimulators will typically be used for three to nine months after surgery. Like the internal stimulator, the patient doesn’t feel any electrical or painful sensations from the device.



*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery