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What Is a Bone Graft and When Is It Necessary?

Doctor with a white coat on pointing to a leg bone

Despite how it seems, bones are living parts of our bodies that change and regenerate regularly. This amazing quality allows the body to heal exceptionally well after trauma, but our bodies have limitations. Whenever you experience a fracture, your surgeon has to determine whether there is enough healthy bone to allow the body to heal on its own. In some cases, especially with more significant fractures, pieces of bone may have to be removed to avoid or minimize the chances of complications or improper healing. Other conditions such as osteonecrosis, previous fractures, joint replacement and more may all need bone grafts as well.

Bone grafts allow your orthopedic surgeon to rebuild and heal significant trauma or disease that has crushed or worn away bone such that it cannot heal properly on its own.

If your orthopedic surgeon believes that the bone will not heal on its own, the graft may be performed as part of another surgery to stabilize the bone or as a separate surgery.

Where Does Bone Graft Come From?

Bone graft come in a number of different forms. First is bone taken from the patient’s own body, known as autograft. Depending on the amount of bone needed and the location of the bone graft, bone from a different part of the body (ribs, hip etc.) may be harvested and fixed in place. We know that this bone is compatible as it is from the patient’s own body. Therefore, it has the best chance of healing properly, with the fewest complications.

Bone can also be harvested from a cadaver. This is known as allograft bone. Allograft bone is specially prepared to be as compatible as possible. Most of the time, the body will accept this foreign bone as its own and a natural process allows for fusion and bone regrowth.

Lastly, synthetic bone material can be used to create the scaffolding around which natural bone regrows. Synthetic bone products have improved in quality and biocompatibility over the past several decades and may be appropriate in some cases.

When Might a Bone Graft Be Necessary?

Ultimately, whether a bone graft is necessary, and the type of bone or material used in a bone graft remains of the discretion of your orthopedic surgeon. The surgeons at Premier Orthopedic and Trauma Specialists have the knowledge and experience to make sure the procedure is as safe and effective as possible.