Advanced Technologies to Improve Wound Healing: Electrical Stimulation, Vibration Therapy, and Ultrasound—What Is the Evidence?

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Background:Cellular energy is required for the healing cascade to occur. A combination of cells, cytokines, chemokines, tissue perfusion, an extracellular matrix, and local forces are also required to allow for human tissue repair to proceed. Although there are many examples of treatment options, energy-based therapies are the least understood, appreciated, and employed by practicing wound care physicians. The recent growth of tissue engineering has encouraged researchers to employ both electrical stimulation and therapeutic ultrasound (US) to stimulate cells, induce migration, and modify tissue constructs.Methods:The authors have reviewed the literature on electrical stimulation, US, and vibrational therapy and are providing an update to a prior 2007 publication on this topic. The hope was to provide a broad exposure to these treatments but not to create a comprehensive review. A table of evidence was generated from the recent literature to help guide treatment decisions for the clinician.Results:In the current literature, there is much debate over which treatment modality, dosage levels, and timing are optimal. There are numerous in-vitro-based publications that describe mechanism of action and several clinical articles that describe effectiveness of electrical stimulation and US, but few well-controlled and/or randomized trials. The absence of level one evidence has hindered the adoption of these techniques throughout the years. Three energy-based treatment options, electrical stimulation, vibration, and US, will be reviewed along with possible clinical applicationsConclusions:Although most trials are underpowered with inconsistent treatment settings, physical therapy modality use is increasing in the clinical community. Recent guidelines reference the use of these treatments with increasing evidence level recommendations. At the present time, electrical stimulation carries the greatest level of evidence for clinical use.

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