Patients' Guide to Bone Growth Stimulation
Improving spinal bone healing in at-risk patients
Bone growth stimulation (BGS) is a therapy your surgeon may prescribe following a spinal fusion procedure. A bone growth stimulator is a supplemental device worn following cervical (neck) or lumbar (low back) spine surgery. BGS may be utilized to help spinal bone fuse after a fusion procedure or as a treatment for failed fusion. Naturally, you have questions about this technology. The information provided can help you learn about:
- How bone heals
- Risk factors for a poor or failed fusion
- Role of bone growth stimulation in spine fusion aftercare
- Questions to ask your spine surgeon
About spinal fusion
Each year hundreds of thousands of patients undergo cervical and/or lumbar spine surgery. The surgical procedure may involve spinal fusion. The goal of spinal fusion is to stabilize the spine.
Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that joins two or more vertebrae, often using screws, plates, and/or interbody devices (implants). After surgery, the bone begins to heal and grow around and over the implants. Fusion is intended to heal into a solid bone mass to prevent motion that can cause or contribute to back or neck pain.
Certain spine surgery patients are at-risk for spinal fusion to fail. A failed fusion is also called pseudarthrosis or non-union. Pseudarthrosis and non-union are medical terms your surgeon may use to define a fusion problem.
Common spinal problems treated surgically with fusion include:
Cervical / Lumbar
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Adult degenerative scoliosis
How can a bone growth stimulator help spinal fusion?
A BGS sends low level electrical signals to the fusion site. The electrical signals activate the body's natural bone healing process, which may be impaired in at-risk patients.
Bone growth stimulation has been used for decades to help bone heal.
Great discoveries were made about 50 years ago when scientists found that low-level electrical fields stimulate the body's bone-healing process. Other advances such as different types of energy to stimulate bone growth, electromagnetic coil technology and simply better devices, supported by scientific and clinical research, have improved bone healing in patients who undergo spinal fusion.
Different types of bone growth stimulators
Not all bone growth stimulators are the same. Certain types are designed to be surgically implanted (internal BGS) and other stimulators are worn outside the body (external BGS). Other differences include the type of electrical current or magnetic field generated by the device and how stimulation is transmitted to the spine.
The four types of devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) treat with direct current1,capacitive coupling2, combined magnetic fields3 or pulsed electromagnetic fields.4-6 Overall, it has been proven that fusion success can be increased in a patient treated with BGS compared to surgery without the use of BGS.