Purpose: Pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) are currently used in the treatment of spinal fusions and non-unions. There are indications that PEMF might also be effective in the treatment of osteoporosis. In this study we examined whether whole-body PEMF treatment affects the bone microarchitecture in an osteoporotic rat model. Methods: Twenty-week-old female rats were ovariectomised (n020). Four different PEMF treatment protocols based on previous experimental studies and based on clinically used PEMF signals were examined (2 h/day, 5 days/week). A control group did not receive PEMF. At zero, three and six weeks cancellous and cortical bone architectural changes at the proximal tibia were evaluated using in vivo microCT scanning. Results: PEMF treatment did not induce any changes in cancellous or cortical bone compared to untreated controls. Conclusions: Although previous studies have shown strong effects of PEMF in osteoporosis we were unable to demonstrate this in any of the treatment protocols. Using in vivo microCT scanning we were able to identify small bone changes in time. Subtle differences in the experimental setup might explain the differences in study outcomes in the literature. Since PEMF treatment is safe, future experimental studies on the effect of PEMF on bone can better be performed directly on humans, eliminating the potential translation issues between animals and humans. In this study we found no support for the use of PEMF in the treatment of osteoporosis.

doi.org/10.1007/s00264-011-1471-8, hdl.handle.net/1765/39292
International Orthopaedics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam