Delayed or failure of bone healing in fracture, osteotomy, and arthrodesis patients continues to be a clinical dilemma. Electromagnetic stimulation is 1 modality demonstrated in many studies to aid bone healing; however, relatively few studies depict the use and complications associated with direct current implantable bone stimulators. Over a 9-year period, we studied a consecutive series of 120 adult patients who underwent implantation of a direct current bone stimulator. The goals of this study were to determine the time until healing, the presence of infection, and the need for additional nonunion surgery or salvage procedure following internal bone stimulator placement for nonunion treatment. Of the factors affecting the time until healing, tobacco smoking was a significant factor associated with increased time until healing. Tobacco smoking and duration of nonunion prior to implantable bone stimulator placement were both significant factors in the need for revision nonunion surgery or salvage procedure after implantable bone stimulator placement. Deep soft tissue infection or osteomyelitis was a significant factor predicting prolonged time to healing, subsequent infection following implantable bone stimulator placement, and the need for revision or salvage surgery. With the relative lack of complications directly attributable to electromagnetic implantable bone stimulators, their use may be an effective adjuvant to stable internal fixation and autogenous bone grafting in healing nonunions. However, the use of implantable bone stimulators in patients with nonunion prior to deep soft tissue infection or osteomyelitis exhibited an increased rate of postoperative infection in this study.
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