Bone grafting is the transplantation of bone tissue. It’s useful in fixing broken bones or problems joints. It is also used to grow bone around implanted devices, such as total knee replacements or fractures. A bone graft can fill in the gap between bone loss and structural stability.
A bone graft can use bone from you or from a donor. Or it can be completely synthetic. If it is accepted by the body, it can be used as a scaffold to allow new, living bones to grow.
Different Types of Bone Grafts
These are the two most popular types of bone transplants:
Allograft is a bone transplant that uses bone from a deceased donor, or a cadaver. It’s stored in a tissue bank after it has been cleaned.
Autograft is a procedure that involves a bone in your body such as your wrist, hips or pelvis.
The type of injury that your surgeon is treating will determine the type of graft required.
- Allografts can be used for hip, knee or long bone reconstruction. Long bones can include the arms and legs. It’s possible to obtain the bone without additional surgery. You are also less likely to get infected because there is no additional surgery or incisions.
- Allograft bone transplant is bone without living cells. This reduces the chance of rejection compared to organ transplants that have living cells. The transplanted bone does not contain living marrow so there is no need for matching blood types between the recipient and the donor.
Before you consent to the procedure or test, make sure you are aware of these things:
- The procedure or test name
- Why are you having the procedure or test?
- What to expect from the results and what they mean
- The benefits and risks of the procedure or test
- What are the possible side effects and complications
- What time and where are you going to have the procedure or test?
- What are the qualifications of the person who will perform the test/procedure?
- What would you do if the procedure or test was not available?
- Are there any other tests or procedures you might be interested in?
- How and when will you achieve the results?
- If you have any questions, or need assistance after the procedure or test, who do you call?
- What amount will you need to pay for the procedure or test?
How Bone Grafting Works
Bone grafting can be done for many reasons, including injury or disease. These are the main reasons bone transplants are performed:
In the event of complex or multiple fractures, or if the initial treatment fails to heal, a bone graft might be necessary.
Fusion is a technique that allows two bones to heal together in a joint with a disease. Most often, fusion is done on the spine.
Regeneration is the treatment of bone that has been damaged by disease, infection or injury. This could involve small sections or whole bones being used in bone cavities.
A graft is a method to aid bone healing around surgically placed devices like plates or screws.
Risks of Bone Graft
There are risks associated with all surgical procedures, including bleeding, infection and reactions to anesthesia. These risks are not the only ones that bone grafts face.
- Nerve injury
- Rejection of bone graft
- Reabsorption of the transplant
Talk to your doctor about the risks you face and the things you can do.
How to Prepare for Bone Transplantation
Before you have surgery, your doctor will conduct a thorough medical history and physical exam. Your doctor will ask you about any prescriptions, over-the counter drugs, or supplements that you are taking.
Most likely, you will need to fast before your surgery. This is to avoid complications while you are under anesthesia.
Your doctor will provide you with detailed instructions on what to do the day before and after your surgery. These instructions are important.
How to Perform a Bone Transplant
Before you have surgery, your doctor will determine the type of bone graft that you should use. General anesthesia will be used to put you in deep sleep. Your recovery and monitoring by an anesthesiologist are important.
The surgeon will then make an incision through the skin just above the area where the graft is required. The surgeon will then mold the bone donated to the desired area. You can use any one of these methods to secure the graft in place:
After the graft has been placed, the surgeon will close the incision with stitches or bandage the wound. To support the bone during healing, a cast or splint can be used. Sometimes, no cast or splint will be necessary.
After Bone Grafting
The size and other factors that affect bone graft recovery will determine the success rate. The average recovery time can take between two and more than one year. Your surgeon may recommend that you avoid any strenuous physical activity for as long time as possible.
After surgery, apply ice to your arm and leg. This is vital. This can prevent swelling from causing pain or blood clots in your legs. Keep your arm and leg at the same level as your heart. Ice bags can be used to cover an injury that is already in a cast.
You should continue to exercise those muscles that were not affected by your surgery during recovery. This will keep your body in top shape. Healthy eating habits are important for recovery.
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do. It will make your body healthier after and beyond surgery.
Smoking can slow down the growth and healing of bone. ResearchTrusted Source found that bone grafts are less successful in smokers than they are in non-smokers. Some surgeons won’t perform elective bone-grafting procedures on smokers.