The effects of ultrasound stimulation on various parameters of bone repair after diaphyseal injury were assessed in a standard rat femur fracture model. Bilateral closed femoral fractures were made in 79 skeletally mature male Long-Evans rats. An ultrasound signal consisting of a 200 microsecond burst sine wave of 0.5 MHz repeating at 1 kHz, with an intensity of 50 or 100 mW/cm2 spatial and temporal average, was applied to one fracture in each animal. The contralateral fracture was not exposed to ultrasound and served as a control. Mechanical testing of the healing fracture was performed 3 weeks after injury. In fractures treated with a 50 mW/cm2 ultrasound signal, the average maximum torque (223.5 ± 50.5 Nmm compared with 172.6 ± 54.9 Nmm, p = 0.022, paired t test) and average torsional stiffness (13.0 ± 3.4 Nmm/° compared with 9.5 ± 2.9 Nmm/°, p = 0.017) were significantly greater in treated than in control fractures. In animals treated with a 100 mW/cm2 ultrasound signal, the average maximum torque and torsional stiffness were greater in treated than in control fractures, but this trend did not reach statistical significance. Biochemical analysis of callus in ultrasound- treated and control fractures failed to demonstrate significant differences in cell number, collagen content, or calcium content. Evaluation of gene expression in fractures treated with 50 mW/cm2 ultrasound demonstrated a shift in the expression of genes associated with cartilage formation; aggrecan gene expression was significantly higher on day 7 after fracture and significantly lower on day 21 (p = 0.033 and 0.035, respectively). α1(II) procollagen gene expression was similarly modified, but this trend did not reach statistical significance. Expression of genes coding for bone-related proteins, including α1(I) procollagen, bone γ-carboxyglutamic acid protein, alkaline phosphatase, and transforming growth factor-β1, did not differ between ultrasound-treated and control fractures. These data suggest that ultrasound stimulation increased the mechanical properties of the healing fracture callus by stimulating earlier synthesis of extracellular matrix proteins in cartilage, possibly altering chondrocyte maturation and endochondral bone formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine