The Role of Low-Intensity Pulsed Ultrasound on Cartilage Healing in Knee Osteoarthritis: A Review

PM R. 2017 Dec;9(12):1268-1277. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2017.05.008. Epub 2017 Jun 9.


Ultrasound (US) is a therapeutic modality that has been used in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions for decades. In recent years, there have been technological advancements using low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) as a clinical modality. The purpose of this review was to critically examine the medical literature to determine the effects of LIPUS on the chondrogenic properties of knee osteoarthritis. A literature search of 3 major databases (PubMed, Scopus, and EMBASE) was performed. Two independent physician reviewers screened titles and abstracts, yielding a total of 18 relevant articles after the inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied. Results favored that LIPUS has a promising effect on the cellular elements in articular cartilage, specifically on chondrocytes in knee osteoarthritis. Although the use of LIPUS is encouraging based on basic science and preclinical data, there is a paucity of evidence with respect to humans. Consequently, there is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against LIPUS in clinical OA populations. We suggest future directions for research centered on LIPUS in both human and animal models to delineate the effect on the biologic properties of cartilage in knee osteoarthritis.

Level of evidence: III.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cartilage, Articular / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy*
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / methods*
  • Ultrasonic Waves*