Spine for spinal fusion surgery

What is a bone graft?

A bone graft is a tiny piece of bone used to fuse the spine together. This extra bone acts as the cement that fuses the vertebrae together during spinal fusion surgery. Bone grafting can be done with pieces of a patient’s own bone (autograft), processed bone from a bone bank (allograft), or a bone graft substitute (demineralized bone, ceramic extender, or bone morphogenetic protein).

To harvest a patient’s own bone for grafting during the fusion surgery a second incision is made over the back of the pelvis. Bone is removed from the iliac crest and placed along the prepared site where the top layer of bone was removed. This bone eventually grows in place, fusing the spine and providing additional stability. The area the bone is taken from can hurt quite a bit until it heals.

Bone banks collect, evaluate, and store bone. The bone comes from human donors who are recently deceased. Donors are checked for their cause of death and medical history. Tests are done to check for viruses such as HIV and hepatitis. The bone is also treated before it is used as a graft. The risk of getting a disease from a bone graft is very slight.

Frequently asked questions about bone grafting.

How big is the incision for a bone graft taken from my hip?

The incision for a bone graft can very, but is generally 1 ½ – 2 inches long.

Are there any alternatives to having a bone graft taken from my hip?

The alternatives to using a bone graft from the patient’s hip are to use local bone, cadaver bone, or a bone graft substitute.

What are the differences between bone taken from my hip and donor bone?

The bone taken from the patient’s hip has a higher fusion rate than donor bone.

What are the potential complications from harvesting bone from my hip?

There are potential complications with any surgical procedure. The complications most often associated with harvesting bone include infection, bleeding, or chronic pain. However, most after the healing most patients experience no complications.

 What is bone morphogenetic protein?

Check out this video for Dr. Longley’s explanation of bone morphogenetic protein.