What is a bone graft? A bone graft is a surgical procedure in which insufficient bone density is usually caused by trauma or problematic joints.
It is also commonly used with dental implants when patients have deteriorated bone structures and need more stability to hold their implants. The graft fills the gap where the bone is missing or adds strength and structure to a specific area.
You may ask yourself where your surgeon will get this bone. They take it from a different part of your body, or it can come from a donor. However, your surgeon can also use a synthetic material your living bones can develop if your body accepts it.
Different Types of Bone Grafts
There are two leading types of bone grafts:
An allograft involves using bone from a donor who has passed. The bone is cleaned and placed in a tissue bank.
An autograft involves removing bone from your body. For example, your doctor can take this bone from your ribs, hips, pelvis, or wrist.
Your surgeon will determine which type to use depending on the injury that needs treatment. However, doctors use allografts to reconstruct the knee, arms, legs, and hip.
One of the benefits of this type of graft is that you will not require additional surgery to remove the bone, which lowers infection chances.
There is a possibility that your body can reject this bone, but it is scarce as the bone has no living cells. Another benefit is that you and your donor won’t need matching blood types since no living marrow exists.
Reasons for Bone Grafting
There are multiples reasons why you might need a bone graft, but a few common scenarios include the following:
- If you have a fracture that won’t heal without a bone graft
- If you had any previous fractures that did not heal properly
- Diseases that affect the bone, like osteonecrosis or cancer
- If you have an unstable spine and need spinal fusion surgery,
- if you have missing teeth and like the idea of dental implants.
- Devices implanted during surgery, like a knee or hip replacement.
If the surgery is successful, bone grafts act as a frame for the new growth of your living bone. If you prefer the type of graft used, chat with your specialist.
It will require additional surgery if you want bone removed from your body, and you will have an extended recovery period. Using a donor, you bypass this procedure but chat with your surgeon about the risks.
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Risks of a Bone Graft
As with the majority of surgeries, there are always risks involved, bone grafts are no different, and complications can include:
- A bad reaction to the anesthetic
- Damage to your nerves
- Bone graft failure
- The graft reabsorbing
During your initial consultation, your physician will interrogate you about your medical history and if you are taking any medications or supplements.
Do not ingest any food or beverages for at least eight hours before your surgery to ensure no issues with the anesthetic.
You should follow your surgeon’s instructions to ensure that everything is ready for your procedure and that there are no unforeseen complications.
Your surgeon will decide beforehand which type of bone graft best suits your situation. You will be asleep for this operation, and an anesthesiologist will administer the anesthetic. Your doctor will incise the area and shape the bone for a tight fit. The materials used to hold the graft in
the place is as follows:
Once your doctor is sure the graft is secure, they will stitch up the incision and wrap up the area with a bandage. Depending on the bone graft, your surgeon might need a cast or splint to add additional support during the healing period. However, this is not always necessary.
There is no set time for recovery as it depends on person-to-person and the complexity of the procedure. Generally, healing will take 14 days – to 12 months or more.
If you enjoy being active, you must avoid physical activity for a few weeks after surgery. However, if you feel ready, discuss this with your doctor, as sometimes your body can deceive you.
Apply ice and elevate the area for a bone graft in your arm or leg after the procedure. This is an essential step to prevent swelling, which lessens your pain and helps avoid blood clots. You should always elevate the leg or arm above the level of your heart; this rule still applies to a cast. Most people don’t know that ice over your cast can also help with swelling.
Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, exercise will significantly help you to heal. Also, try activities that strengthen your muscle groups that weren’t affected by the procedure. Eating healthy foods will also help with the healing process.
Smoking is a significant hazard after any surgery. It can elongate the healing process and slow bone growth. So it would be best to quit.
A bone graft is necessary when patients have insufficient bone density caused by trauma or injured joints. There are two preferred types of grafts. Allograft is when bone mass gets built up using bone from a donor. An Autograft involves additional surgery to remove bone from your body.
There are risks associated with the bone grafting procedure, including bleeding, infection, swelling, and failure. In addition, recovery could generally take 14 days to over a year as it differs from person to person and the complexity of the procedure.
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