Engineering and Computer Science Faculty Publications

The Efficacy of Direct Current Stimulation for Lumbar Intertransverse Process Fusions in an Animal Model

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Study Design. Posterolateral lumbar intertransverse process fusion using a rabbit model with autologous bone graft and direct current stimulation was compared with fusion achieved by using autologous bone graft alone.

Objectives. To determine the efficacy of direct current electrical stimulation for the posterolateral lumbar intertransverse process fusion technique by using a 20-[mu]A current and the more recently developed 60-[mu]A current delivered by an implantable direct current stimulator.

Summary of Background Data. Previous studies have demonstrated a positive effect of direct current electrical stimulation on posterior spinal fusion techniques. However, until recently, the environment of an intertransverse fusion was not well simulated. The current research examined the posterolateral lumbar intertransverse process fusion technique with direct current electrical stimulation using a rabbit model. This appears to parallel human fusion techniques more closely and allows for lower cost and technical ease.

Methods. In this study, 44 adult New Zealand white rabbits underwent an L5-L6 intertransverse process fusion. All the fusions used an autologous bone graft obtained from bilateral posterior iliac crests. A device was implanted in all the rabbits subcutaneously, and they were divided randomly into three groups: a sham or nonfunctioning group, a 20-[mu]A low-current stimulator group, and a 60-[mu]A higher-current stimulator group. Spinal fusion was evaluated radiographically, histologically, and manually as well as by biomechanical testing 5 weeks after surgery.

Results. Radiographic grades, manual palpation, biomechanical strength, and stiffness showed an increasing trend from sham or inactive stimulator groups to low-current and then to high-current stimulator groups. Histologic analysis revealed that the higher-current stimulator showed that, statistically, the healing response of the host tissue to the autograft had increased significantly, as compared with the sham.

Conclusions. Direct current electrical stimulation is efficacious in improving both the healing rate and strength in this posterolateral lumbar fusion model. In addition, it appears that this effect is enhanced by increasing the stimulation current from 20 [mu]A to 60 [mu]A.


Animal model, bone graft, DC electrical stimulation, spinal fusion