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 is 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.
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
The risks for any anesthesia include:
Reactions to medications
The risks for this surgery include:
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.
Vigorous exercise may be restricted for up to 6 months.
You will need to keep the bone graft area clean and dry. Your doctor will give you instructions about showering.
Do not smoke. Smoking slows down or prevents bone healing. If you smoke, it is more likely to graft will fail.
Most bone grafts help the bone defect to heal with little risk of graft rejection.
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.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; 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., Inc.