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.
Iliac Crest Graft Harvest
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The doctor may recommend a bone graft to:
Treat a fracture that is not healingReconstruct a shattered boneFill gaps in bone caused by cysts or tumorsFuse bones on either side of a jointStimulate bone growth to help anchor an artificial joint or other implant
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a bone graft, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include: BleedingInfectionBlood clotsNerve damageRejection of a graft from another personFat particles dislodge from the bone marrow and travel to the lung (this is rare)Anesthesia reaction
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Long-term medical conditionsAdvanced ageSmoking
Your doctor will likely do the following:
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:
or other anti-inflammatory drugs
Blood thinners, such as
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:
—You will be asleep.
Local anesthesia—The area will be numbed.
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.
The length of your surgery will depend on the repair needed.
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. Pain medicine will relieve discomfort during your recovery.
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
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision siteNausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicines you were given after surgery, or which persist for more than two days after discharge from the hospitalPain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been givenPain, burning, urgency or frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urineCough, shortness of breath, or chest painNumbness or tingling at affected site
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 10th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc.; 2003.
Last reviewed December 2011 by John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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