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During a bone graft, a donated piece of bone is added to the site of a fracture or other bone defect. The new bone can spur bone growth, bridge a gap in a bone, provide support, and aid in healing. The new bone may come from another part of your body (autograft) or from another person (allograft). Rarely, synthetic grafts, which are not bone, are also used.
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What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
- Physical exam
- X-rays of the bone involved
Leading up to your procedure:
- Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
- Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
- Blood thinners, such as clopidogrel (Plavix) or warfarin (Coumadin)
- Review with your doctor any herbs or supplements that you take. You may be asked to stop taking some.
- Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
- Arrange for help at home after returning from the hospital.
Depending on the procedure, you may receive:
- General anesthesia —You will be asleep.
- Local anesthesia—The area will be numbed.
Description of the Procedure
The method of treatment depends on the type and location of the bone injury or defect and the type of graft you will be receiving.
Most bone graft procedures use your own bone. The bone is often taken from the iliac crest. This is the bone at your hip, about where you would wear a belt. An incision is made over the part of the bone that will be removed. A special bone chisel will remove the piece of bone. This incision is then closed.
The doctor will cut through the skin covering the area in need of repair. Any scar or dead tissue will be removed from the area. Your bone will then be reconstructed with the graft. The doctor may need to immobilize the bone. Plates and screws may be used during the procedure to immobilize the bone. A cast or brace may be needed after the procedure.
An x-ray may be taken to make sure the bone is in the correct position.
How Long Will It Take?
The length of your surgery will depend on the repair needed.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. Pain medicine will relieve discomfort during your recovery.
Average Hospital Stay
Your stay in the hospital will depend on the extent of surgery and your progress.
Care depends on the procedure and location of the bone graft:
- Follow your doctor’s instructions for changing the dressing and showering.
- Do not smoke. Smoking can delay bone healing.
- Some grafts can fail. You doctor will track progress with x-rays.
- Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions .
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
The Cleveland Clinic
University of Maryland Spine Center
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Bone grafting. The Cleveland Clinic website. Available at
. Accessed September 8, 2005.
Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 10th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc.; 2003.
A patient's guide to understanding bone graft. University of Maryland Spine Center website. Available at:
. Accessed September 8, 2005.