Bone Grafts in Spine Surgery

Bone graft is a medical term that describes the procedure applied by the surgeon when performing a fusion surgery for the spine. 

Why Might I need Bone Grafting in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Bone grafting may become necessary where two bones need to be fused surgically. 

Often, the fusing of two bones happens on the spine to help bones heal together, especially across a diseased segment. Your healthcare provider may as well recommend regeneration in cases where your bone has been severely damaged by diseases, injury, or infections. 

Here are additional reasons for choosing bone grafting as a minimally invasive spine surgery option:

  • You may need a bone graft for complex fractures that result in instability.  
  • A bone graft can help the bone heal where surgically implanted devices such as plates, screws, and rods need to be utilized.      
  • You may need a bone graft for spinal fusion surgery, particularly if your spine is unstable

Types of Bone Grafts in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Different types of bone grafts are available today. They include:

  1. Autograft: This is the standard bone grafting technique used in bone fusion. Bone autograft involves taking extra pieces of bone from some parts of your body (bone harvesting) and grafting them to another body part.
  2. Local bone autograft: Some bone grafts in spine surgery entail the removal of parts of your spinal bones to relieve a significant amount of pressure on your nerve roots. The removed bones are saved during the bone grafting procedure and recycled to  be used later as the graft. 
  3. Allograft or Cadaver Bone: This procedure is referred to as an allograft bone graft, where bones are acquired from the bone bank during surgery. Allograft bone graft has been used in spinal fusion surgery for a very long time. They act as a scaffold to allow the natural bone to regenerate through the surface. The natural bone gradually replaces the allograft bone after some time. 
  4. Allograft stem cells: Just like allograft bone graft, allograft stem cells come from a cadaver or a donor. As living cells, stem cells can form bone cells in addition to aiding in bone fusion. The main advantage of allograft stem cells is that they do not cause tissue rejection. 
  5. Demineralized bone matrix (DBM): For DBM, calcium is processed from the bone. As such, the DBM process makes it easy for patients to access important proteins needed to stimulate bone healing after bone grafts in spine surgery.
  6. Synthetic bone graft: With this type of graft, bone grafts are obtained from calcium materials. Another name for synthetic bone grafts is ceramics and they are almost similar in consistency and shape to autograft bone. 
  7. Bone marrow aspirate: Bone marrow contains stem cells needed for various medical processes. Your bone marrow is found in the long bones of your arms, legs, and thighs. So, your doctor may aspirate or draw out your bone marrow to perform bone grafts in spine surgery. To speed up your healing process, the aspirated marrow can be combined with other bone graft techniques such as allograft bone graft, local bone autograft or synthetic bone.
  8. Biologics or proteins: A good example of proteins that stimulate bone growth is the bone morphogenic protein (BMP). Surgeons use BMP to initiate and promote solid spine fusions during bone grafts in spine surgery. This common bone graft option has a very powerful bone-forming capability, so it should be used with a lot of care.

What are the Risks for Bone Grafting in  Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Even though bone grafting is generally safe, some risks come with it. Some of these risks are as follows:

  • Infection
  • Blood clot
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Cadaver bone graft risks
  • Infections from the donor’s bone
  • Complications from anesthesia

 Risks related to bone grafts in spine surgery may vary depending on the reason for your graft and from one person to another. These reasons include the source of your bone graft (whether you are using cadaver bones or not), your age, and underlying medical conditions. Discuss with your healthcare provider about your general health before the surgery graft.

 How do I Prepare for Bone Grafting in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Make sure to consult with your healthcare provider about how to prepare for a surgery graft. Find out if you need to stop taking some medications before the scheduled day of your surgery. Most importantly, quit smoking before your scheduled bone grafts on spine surgery day to help speed up your recovery time. 

 Just before your bone grafting surgery (cadaver bone graft, allograft bone graft, or autograft), you may need to perform some tests such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans among others. Also, you may have to make crucial arrangements in advance depending on your reason for considering bone grafting. These arrangements should aim at helping you heal fast and comfortably after the surgery. Remember not to eat and drink 12 hours before your scheduled bone grafting surgery time.

What Happens During Bone Grafting in  Spine Surgery?

All details regarding your bone grafting surgery are likely to vary depending on the reason for the graft surgery. Consult your healthcare provider about the whole surgical process to know what lies ahead of you. During the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will work hand-in-hand with other team members to ensure that the whole process is a success.  

At the start of the bone grafts in spine surgery or just surgery graft, you will be put under anesthesia to manage the pain or discomfort.  One of the surgeons will closely monitor vital organs like the blood pressure and heart rate throughout the operation. On the other hand, your assigned surgeon will clean the affected area, make an incision through the skin, and pose the bone to be grafted. 

Recovery after Bone Grafting in Spine Surgery

After your bone grafting procedure, your next step is to look forward to a quick recovery. Your recovery time may depend on the size of your bone graft as well as other variables. Therefore, you must stay away from strenuous and vigorous activities.  

You should also elevate your legs while sleeping or relaxing to avoid swelling. At the same time, ensure that other muscles (not affected by surgery) are active and healthy through routine exercises. If possible, look for assistive walking devices such as crutches and walkers to enhance your mobility as you recover. 

Dr. Philip Meinhardt at Sforzo l Dillingham l Stewart Orthopedics  + Sports Medicine, professional orthopedic specialist will handle your bone grafting procedure using the  spine surgery technique. Dr. Philip A. Meinhardt is a  board-certified orthopedic surgeon, fellowship-trained in different types of surgeries. He provides expert care in treating conditions involving the spine.  Please contact Sforzo l Dillingham l Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine to schedule an appointment with Dr. Philip Meinhardt.

Final Thought

Sometimes serious injuries can lead to bone damage, especially the spinal column. When this happens, your healthcare provider will recommend a bone graft in spine surgery to help rebuild the damaged bone. For more information on bone grafting in spine surgery, contact Sforzo | Dillingham |Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine to schedule your appointment with Dr. Philip Meinhardt.