Ultrasound was used successfully for years as a non-invasive diagnostic tool before its potential benefits in wound healing were first investigated.1 Ultrasound waves, formed when electrical energy is converted to sound waves at frequencies above the range of human hearing, are now used routinely in wound management and can be transferred to tissue though a treatment applicator. The depth of penetration is dependent on the frequency, with higher frequencies resulting in lower tissue penetration.
Both the thermal and non-thermal properties of ultrasound contribute to its therapeutic benefits. The warmth generated at relatively high intensities can be used in musculoskeletal conditions such as spasm,2 as well as in the remodeling phase of wound healing to improve scar/wound outcome. The non-thermal effects of ultrasound generated at lower intensities are currently attracting considerable interest as they appear to cause changes in cell membrane permeability and thus the diffusion of cellular metabolites.2-4
Ultrasound therapy is indicated for chronic or recalcitrant wounds that are clean or infected, pressure wounds, venous insufficiency, acute trauma, and recent surgery. The technique should not be used in simple wounds or in cases of osteomyelitis, bleeding, severe arterial insufficiency, or acute DVT.
Although ultrasound therapy appears to have a number of advantages, the main evidence to support its use still comes from laboratory results, with clinical data proving somewhat disappointing. However, anecdotal reports do provide some evidence for its use in a broad range of wound types.
Studying for a certification in wound care can be a valuable way to learn more about adjuvant wound care options, including ultrasound therapy, as well as other aspects of wound management. Wound care certification also helps you stand out from your colleagues when you are looking for promotion or a new position.
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- Hess CL, Howard MA, Attinger CE. A review of mechanical adjuncts in wound healing: hydrotherapy, ultrasound, negative pressure therapy, hyperbaric oxygen, and electrostimulation. Ann Plast Surg. 2003 Aug;51(2):210-8.
- McCulloch J. Physical modalities in wound management: ultrasound, Vasopneumatic devices and hydrotherapy. Ostomy Wound Manage 1995; 41:32-37.
- Davis SC, Ovington LG. Electrical stimulation and ultrasound in wound healing. Derm Clinics 1993;11(4):775-781.
- Dyson M. Therapeutic application of ultrasound. Clin Diagnost Ultrasound 1985;16:121-134