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PEMF Scientific Breakthroughs Review (study summary)


Aesthetic Surgery Journal
Evidence-Based Use of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy in Clinical Plastic Surgery

Berish Strauch, MD, Charles Herman, MD, Richard Dabb, MD, Louis J. Ignarro, PhD, Arthur A. Pilla, PhD

March 1, 2009


Despite great success with PEMF treatments, too few medical practitioners know about its benefits.

We need to provide them with more evidence about how it works, and the results it produces.

This paper is a review of PEMF scientific studies.

It gives the current understanding of PEMF therapy witht he hope of giving clinicians “a sound basis for optimal use.”


Researchers reviewed PEMF literature and reported on their own use of PEMF in surgery.

They reported on PEMF’s biological mechanisms of action, clinical studies, and case illustrations.

The emphasis in this report is on PEMF for plastic surgery, but the principles scale to many other medical disciplines.



Anecdotal Plastic Surgery PEMF Success

Researchers found in their plastic surgery clinic that using PEMF reduced the need to prescribe narcotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.

When treating patients with PEMF, they were able to discharge patients earlier. Patients returned to normal function faster than those not treated with PEMF.

PEMF is applied using a circuloar coil on the target tissue.

It can be used through braces, clothing, and dressings.

PEMF Literature Results

PEMF is already shown to be helpful reducing post-surgical pain, post surgical edema,  and chronic wounds.

It helps with vasodilation and healthy angiogenesis.

The first PEMF treatments used radio frequency (RF) and diathermy (heat therapy). Heat was part of the therapeutic mechanism.

Diathermy (heat therapy) using RF PEMF is effective for:

  • chronic wound repair
  • acute ankle edema
  • significant whiplash pain decrease
  • significant whiplash range of motion increase
  • both diabetic and healthy individual enhanced blood flow
  • reduced post mastectomy lymphedema

While heat is an effective modality, modern PEMF does not necessarily rely on heat for its results.

The pulse in Pulsed EMF therapy reduces the heating effect without reducing the therapy’s usefulness.

PEMF History

The first RF PEMF device was the Diapulse.

It was produced in 1950 and US FDA cleared to treat post-operative pain and swelling.

Early PEMF produced EMI (electromagnetic interference) in surrounding electronics.

These PEMF machines were also large and bulky.

Non-diathermy PEMF is also successful treating bone growth and repair. PEMF induces new bone formation. Researchers first achieved this using implanted PEMF electrodes.

PEMF also treats spinal fusions, non-union fractures, and can be a substitute for a bone graft.

PEMF Calcium, Protein, and Enzyme Mechanisms

PEMF bone grows relies on free Ca2+ (ionized calcium, an intercellular messenger)

PEMF incudes a calcium, protein, and enzyme chain involved in muscle contraction the movement of energy within the cells.

Physiologically it affects

  • Ca^2+ (calcium ions) (cellular signals)
  • CaM (Calmodulin, or calcium-modulated protein) (extracellular messenger)
  • MLCK (myosin light chain kinase) (muscle contraction)
  • myosin  phosphorylation (motor protein sugar metabolism)

PEMF Nitric Oxide Mechanisms

The next phase PEMF will concentrate on Ca/CaM-dependent nitric oxide (NO) cascades.

PEMF’s induces the flow of nitric oxide, which has healthy effects on:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • blood vessel growth
  • tissue regeneration
  • tissue remodeling

Nitric oxide is already known to create:

  • an anti-inflammatory response
  • increased blood flow
  • increased lymph flow
  • healing growth factors

Nitric oxide proliferation is superior to other modalities because it starts to have a positive effect in seconds, and has no side effects.

Practitioners use PEMF in surgery to reduce swelling and recovery time.

They apply a PEMF device in the operating or the recovery room.

Typical treatment is a 30 minute session every four to 8 hours.

In the clinic, typical treatment is a 30 minute session every twelve hours.

Using these protocols, practitioners can close an intractable chronic wound in six to eight weeks.


PEMF has no known side effects.

PEMF is a non-invasive, nonpharmacological tool that treats post-operative pain and edema.

It has been successfully used to treat accidental and surgical injuries.

Evidence for successful treatment using PEMF includes treating fractures and chronic wounds.

PEMF uses short electrical current bursts that do not produce heat.

PEMF does not interfere with nerves or muscles.

It can be used on outpatients and at home.


These researchers use Ivivi Technologies PEMF devices in their own clinic.

As of this (EMF Channel) article, Ivivi is not on the web, and its stock price is $0.00.

Several article authors have financial and employment relationships with Ivivi.

Ivivi is now ADM Tronics, which engineers the Sonotron(R).

The Sonotron is a PEMF device that uses a “long-wave RF energy pulsed at an audio frequency to produce a corona discharge output” for the “treatment of osteoarthritis, bursitis, TMJ and other painful conditions.”

PEMF is a tested intervention worthy of more study and clinical use.

It is already used to heal bones and speed wound healing.

These statements are supported regardless of the authors’ affiliations.