Veterinary applications of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy

Highlights

PEMF treatment is increasingly being used for both human and veterinary care.

PEMF devices deliver electromagnetic fields to tissue to promote healing.

Basic and clinical research on PEMF treatment has matured over the last decade.

Evidence supports PEMF treatment for fractures, pain, wounds, and other indications.

PEMF, as part of multimodal treatment, may improve veterinary clinical outcomes.

Abstract

Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy can non-invasively treat a variety of pathologies by delivering electric and magnetic fields to tissues via inductive coils. The electromagnetic fields generated by these devices have been found to affect a variety of biological processes and basic science understanding of the underlying mechanisms of action of PEMF treatment has accelerated in the last 10 years. Accumulating clinical evidence supports the use of PEMF therapy in both animals and humans for specific clinical indications including bone healing, wound healing, osteoarthritis and inflammation, and treatment of post-operative pain and edema. While there is some confusion about PEMF as a clinical treatment modality, it is increasingly being prescribed by veterinarians. In an effort to unravel the confusion surrounding PEMF devices, this article reviews important PEMF history, device taxonomy, mechanisms of action, basic science and clinical evidence, and relevant trends in veterinary medicine. The data reviewed underscore the usefulness of PEMF treatment as a safe, non-invasive treatment modality that has the potential to become an important stand-alone or adjunctive treatment modality in veterinary care.

1. Introduction

Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is a non-invasive, non-thermal treatment that involves pulsing electromagnetic fields in tissue to promote healing (Strauch et al., 2009). PEMF devices have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat non-union fractures and cleared to treat post-operative pain and edema, osteoarthritis, and plantar fasciitis. Implementation of PEMF therapy in veterinary medicine is increasing. Pathologies that are often treated with PEMF devices include bone fractures, inflammation and arthritis, pain, edema, and chronic wounds. Though there is a growing body of basic and clinical evidence in support of PEMF treatment as a therapeutic modality, veterinary practitioners and animal owners report significant confusion about PEMF devices largely due to the number of different types of devices and the varying amounts of evidence that support each type of device. This lack of clarity regarding the PEMF modality is furthered by poor dissemination of data on mechanisms of action and a wide variety of unsubstantiated claims that are used for marketing purposes. In an effort to unravel the confusion surrounding PEMF devices, this article reviews important PEMF history, device taxonomy, mechanisms of action, basic science and clinical evidence, and relevant trends in veterinary medicine. The goal of this overview is to provide readers with a clearer understanding of the PEMF treatment modality, with an emphasis on recent PEMF technologies that are rooted in basic science and clinical research and are well-positioned to augment veterinary care.

2. History

Electromagnetic field devices have been used therapeutically for more than a century and for a variety of applications (Fig. 1) (Strauch et al., 2009). Historically, most devices have had a wide range of operating modes and were largely promoted without scientific evidence or validation. The era of modern PEMF technologies began in the 1930s when a vacuum tube-based diathermy machine, a radio-frequency electromagnetic device used to deliver heat deep into tissue, was adapted to produce little to no heat. This was accomplished by reducing the duty cycle of the diathermy device, or the percentage of the electromagnetic signal’s on-off cycle in which the signal is active, to about 4%. These new non-thermal devices were purported to have therapeutic effects in wound healing and treatment of pain, though via unknown mechanisms at the time.

Link to complete article: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29775839/

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