E-stim fails to improve effects of Boston spondylolysis brace

Supplementing with electrical stimulation does not improve the healing effectiveness of the Boston Overlap Brace in athletes with spondylolysis fractures, according to preliminary research from Boston Children's Hospital.

Fifty-six athletes between the ages of 12 and 22 with spondylolysis pain were randomized to wear a Boston Overlap Brace (Boston Brace, Avon, MA) for 23 hours per day either alone (26 patients) or with an external electrical bone stimulator worn outside the brace for three hours per day (30 patients). After four months, seven patients in the brace-only group crossed over to the e-stim group. All patients also received physical therapy.

At one year from randomization, the researchers found that the frequency of bony/fibrous union did not differ significantly between groups.

In a pair of case studies published in the July 1998 issue of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers from Children's Hospital and the Karolinska Institute, both in Stockholm, successfully used electrical stimulation alone to heal spondylolysis fractures that were recalcitrant to 14 months of bracing and an antilordotic exercise program. In that report, both patients were pain free after four months of e-stim and CT scans showed complete healing at one year.