Bone Growth Stimulators after Spinal Fusion

What is a Bone Growth Stimulator?

The quick answer is a Bone Growth Stimulator is a device used to speed up and improve the growth of bone during the healing process.  It is an electronic device that provides an external stimulation to penetrate to the spinal level.  They come in several shapes and sizes and have different specific applications.  It can be carried around with the patient so they can use it during normal daily activity.

When Do You Use a Bone Growth Stimulator?

Bone Growth Stimulator used at JOI.\Bone Growth Stimulators after Spinal Fusion can help healing in certain patients
In my practice, I prescribe bone growth stimulators after spinal fusion if I am concerned about the how a patient will heal after Surgery.  I am more likely to order a Bone Growth Stimulator if:

  • I perform a fusion of several spine levels.
  • Patient has Diabetes or Kidney Disease which may slow the healing after surgery.
  • The patient was a recent Smoker or Tobacco user.
  • The patient has had a previous issue with fusion procedures no healing well (non-union).

Bone Growth Stimulators after spinal surgery.Bone Growth Stimulators can be beneficial for some patients.

What is the Best Type of Bone Growth Stimulator with Spinal Fusion?

There are 3 types of Bone Growth Stimulators. These include:

  1. Electrical Stimulation.
  2. Low-Intensity Pulsed Ultrasound.
  3. Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy.

According to the research, these 3 types of Bone Growth Stimulators are about the same after spinal fusion.

To Learn more about the Anatomy of the Spine, this video may help. 

Does Insurance Cover Bone Growth Stimulators?

Most of the time, insurance covers bone growth stimulators after spinal fusion if it is medically necessary. Patients who have a metabolic disorder or at risk for failure due to health issues typically get approval from their insurance company. Patients with issues that decrease the risk for success after a fusion are typically approved as well.  But, as with all medical and surgical issues, insurance coverage can vary.

How Long Do You Use a Bone Growth Stimulator?

I use 3 different devices in my practice. Each has a different daily use recommendation.

  1. Donjoy – electromagnetic stimulation – 30 minutes a day (looks like a video game steering wheel)
  2. Biomet – capacitive coupling electric stimulation – up to 24 hrs/day (little pads)
  3. Orthofix – electromagnetic stimulation – typically 3 hrs/day (The Neck Device looks like a large lanyard necklace. The Low Back Device is a wrap-around square/rectangular device)

I instruct my patients to use the device until the battery runs out. The battery usually lasts 6 to 9 months.

Are There Patients Who SHOULD NOT Use A Bone Growth Stimulator?

If a patient has any of the following conditions, I do not prescribe a bone growth stimulator after spinal fusion.  

  • Infection.
  • Avascular necrosis.
  • Implanted pacemaker/defibrillator.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Skeletal immaturity.


Bone Growth Stimulators play a significant role in my practice when I perform a Complicated Spinal Fusion Procedure. The research supports their use for certain patients and they are convenient and simple to use.

If you have a spine issue, I can help. My staff and I at the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute are ready to meet your needs.  JOI offers ASAP fracture and Injury Services so that you can be seen quickly. We also offer Telemedicine visits so that you can be seen from your home.  

To schedule a physical therapy appointment at one of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045.

By: James Perry, DO

Dr. James Perry is a Board Certified Orthopedic Spine Surgeon with the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute.  To schedule an appointment with Dr. Perry, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.

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