A bone graft is surgery to place new bone or bone substitutes into spaces around a broken bone or bone defects.
A bone graft can be taken from the person's own healthy bone (this is called an autograft). Or, it can be taken from frozen, donated bone (allograft). In some cases, a manmade (synthetic) bone substitute is used.
You will be asleep and feel no pain (general anesthesia).
During surgery, the surgeon makes a cut over the bone defect. The bone graft can be taken from areas close to the bone defect or more commonly from the pelvis. The bone graft is shaped and inserted into and around the area. The bone graft can be held in place with pins, plates, or screws.
Bone grafts are used to:
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general include:
Risks of this surgery include:
Tell your surgeon what medicines you are taking. This includes medicines, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.
Follow instructions about stopping blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), or NSAIDs such as aspirin. These might cause increased bleeding during the surgery.
On the day of the surgery:
Recovery time depends on the injury or defect being treated and the size of the bone graft. Your recovery may take 2 weeks to 3 months. The bone graft itself will take up to 3 months or longer to heal.
You may be told to avoid extreme exercise for up to 6 months. Ask your provider or nurse what you can and cannot safely do.
You will need to keep the bone graft area clean and dry. Follow instructions about showering.
DO NOT smoke. Smoking slows or prevents bone healing. If you smoke, the graft is more likely to fail. Be aware that nicotine patches slow healing just like smoking does.
Most bone grafts help the bone defect heal with little risk of graft rejection.
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.