This article deals with the rational and practical use of surgically noninvasive pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) in treating ununited fractures, failed arthrodeses, and congenital pseudarthroses (infantile nonunions). The method is highly effective (more than 90 per cent success) in adult patients when used in conjunction with good management techniques that are founded on biomechanical principles. When union fails to occur with PEMFs alone after approximately four months, their proper use in conjunction with fresh bone grafts insures a maximum failure rate of 1 to 1.5 per cent. Union occurs because the weak electric currents induced in tissues by the time-varying fields effect calcification of the fibrocartilage in the fracture gap, thereby setting the stage for the final phases of fracture healing by endochondral ossification. The efficacy, safety, and simplicity of the method has prompted its use by the majority of orthopedic surgeons in this country. In patients with delayed union three to four months postfracture, PEMFs appear to be more successful and healing, generally, is more rapid than in patients managed by other conservative methods. For more challenging problems such as actively infected nonunions, multiple surgical failures, long-standing (for example, more than two years postfracture) atrophic lesions, failed knee arthrodeses after removal of infected prostheses, and congenital pseudarthroses, success can be expected in a large majority of patients in whom PEMFs are used. Finally, as laboratory studies have expanded knowledge of the mechanisms of PEMF action, it is clear that different pulses affect different biologic processes in different ways. Selection of the proper pulse for a given pathologic entity has begun to be governed by rational processes similar, in certain respects, to those applied to pharmacologic agents.