Purpose: The use of shock waves in orthopedic diseases was reviewed with special regard to the clinical applications.
Materials and methods: Findings in the literature and results from our own studies were analyzed and summarized.
Results: Extracorporeal shock waves induced osteoneogenesis in animal models with intact and fractured bones. Based on these findings shock waves were used for the treatment of pseudarthrosis in humans. Most patients had at least 1 unsuccessful operation before shock wave therapy. Complete reunion was noted in 62 to 91% of cases and shock waves are recommended by some as the first choice of treatment for hypertrophic pseudarthrosis. After failed nonoperative therapy shock waves were used for the treatment of patients with various diseases as secondary treatment. The success rate for treatment of tendinopathies, such as tennis elbow, periarthritis humeroscapularis or calcaneal spur, was approximately 80%. For calcific tendinitis shock wave therapy seems to be superior to all other minimal or noninvasive techniques without compromising a potential later operation.
Conclusions: Shock waves have changed medical therapy substantially. Accounting for the epidemiology of the treated diseases, this new change may equal or even surpass the impact of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy.