Is a Bone Graft?
A bone graft is
a surgical procedure used to fix problems with bones or joints. Bone grafting,
or transplanting of bone tissue, is beneficial in fixing bones that are damaged
from trauma, or problem joints. It’s also useful for growing bone around an
implanted device, such as a total knee replacement. A bone graft may fill a
void where bone is absent or help provide structural stability.
The bone used in a bone graft can come from your body, a
donor, or it can be entirely man-made. The bone graft can provide a framework
where new, living bone can grow if it’s accepted by the body.
The two most common types of bone grafts are:
- An allograft
uses bone from a deceased donor or a cadaver that has been cleaned and stored
in a tissue bank.
- An autograft
comes from a bone inside your body, such as your ribs, hips, pelvis, or wrist.
The type of graft used depends on the type of injury your
surgeon will be repairing. Allografts are commonly used in hip, knee, or long
bone reconstruction. Long bones include arms and legs. The advantages are there’s
no additional surgery needed to acquire the bone. It also lowers your risk of
infection since additional incisions or surgery aren’t required
Bone Grafting Is Performed
Bone grafting is done for numerous reasons, including injury
and disease. There are four main reasons bone grafts are used:
bone graft may be used in the case of multiple or complex fractures or those
that don’t heal well after initial treatment.
helps two bones heal together across a diseased joint. Fusion is most often
done on the spine.
is used for bone lost to disease, infection, or injury. This can involve
using small amounts of bone in bone cavities or large sections of bones.
- A graft can be used to help bone heal around
surgically implanted devices, like joint replacements, plates, or screws
Risks of a Bone Graft
All surgical procedures involve risks of bleeding,
infection, and reactions to anesthesia. Bone grafts carry these risks and other
- nerve injury
- rejection of the bone graft
- reabsorption of the graft
Ask your doctor about these risks and what you can do to
to Prepare for Bone Grafting
Your doctor will perform a complete medical history and
physical examination before your surgery. Make sure you tell your doctor about
any medications, over-the-counter drugs, or supplements you’re taking.
You’ll most likely be required to fast before surgery. This
is done to prevent complications while you’re under anesthesia.
Your doctor will give you complete instructions about what
do to the days before and the day of your surgery. It’s important to follow
a Bone Graft Is Performed
Your doctor will decide which type of bone graft will be
used before your surgery. You’ll be given general anesthesia, which will put
you into a deep, peaceful sleep. An anesthesiologist will monitor the
anesthesia and your recovery.
Your surgeon will make an incision in the skin above where
the graft is needed. They’ll then shape the donated bone to fit the area. The
graft will be held in place using any of the following:
Once the graft is securely in place, your surgeon will close
the incision or wound with stitches and bandage the wound. A cast or splint may
be used to support the bone while it heals. Many times, no casting or splint is
Recovery from bone grafts depends on the size of the graft
and other variables. Typical recovery can take anywhere from two weeks to more
than a year. You’ll probably need to avoid vigorous physical activity for as
long as your surgeon suggests.
Apply ice and elevate your arm or leg after surgery. This is
extremely important. It can help prevent swelling, which causes pain and can
cause blood clots in your leg. As a general rule, keep your arm or leg above
the level of your heart. Even if your injury is in a cast, putting ice bags
over the cast may help.
During your recovery, you should exercise the muscle groups
that weren’t affected by the surgery. This will help keep your body in good
shape. You should also maintain a healthy diet, which will aid in the recovery
One of the best things you can do is quit smoking. This will
improve the health of your body after surgery and beyond. Smoking slows the
healing and growth of bone. Research has shown that
bone grafts fail at a higher rate with smokers. Some surgeons refuse to do
elective bone grafting procedures on those who smoke.