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Bone graft

A bone graft is surgery to place new bone or bone substitutes into spaces around a broken bone or bone defects.

A bone graft can be taken from the patient's own healthy bone (this is called an autograft) or from frozen, donated bone (allograft). In some cases, a man-made (synthetic) bone substitute is used.

A surgeon makes a cut over the bone defect. The bone graft is shaped and inserted into and around the area. The bone graft can be held in place with pins, plates, or screws. Stitches are used to close the wound. A splint or cast is usually used to prevent injury or movement while healing.

Alternative Names

Autograft; Allograft

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Bone grafts are used to:

  • Fuse joints to prevent movement
  • Repair broken bones (fractures) that have bone loss
  • Repair injured bone that has not healed

Risks

The risks for any anesthesia include:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing

The risks for this surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain at the place on the body where the bone was removed

After the Procedure

Recovery time depends on the injury or defect being treated and the size of the bone graft. Your recovery may take 2 weeks to 3 months. The bone graft itself will take up to 3 months or longer to heal.

You may be told to avoid extreme exercise for up to 6 months. Ask your doctor or nurse what you can and cannot safely do.

You will need to keep the bone graft area clean and dry.Your doctor or nurse will give you instructions about showering.

Do not smoke. Smoking slows down or prevents bone healing. If you smoke, the graft is more likely to fail.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most bone grafts help the bone defect to heal with little risk of graft rejection.

References

Camillo FX. Arthrodesis of the spine. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 36.

Brinker MR, O’Connor DP, Almekinders LC, et al. Bone injury. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 5.

Updated: 8/11/2012

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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