Diseases & Conditions

Bone Graft

Overview & Description

A bone graft is a surgery performed to place new bone into spaces between or around abnormal bones. Bone grafts may be taken from another part of the person's body, such as the hip or ribs. This is called an autograft. Bone grafts may also come from a tissue donor. These are called allografts.

Both types of grafts have advantages. An autograft is usually not rejected by the person's body, since it is his or her own bone. On the other hand, an allograft is more readily available, and the surgeon can use as much as needed. It also prevents a person from needing a second surgery. This is important if a large amount of bone graft is needed.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Bone grafts are commonly used to:

  • fuse a bone to prevent movement, such as a spinal fusion
  • help abnormally formed bones, or birth defects involving bone, to develop in a healthy manner
  • help realign bone fractures, or broken bones, that have not healed well
  • repair a bone that fails to heal
  • replace bone cut out during surgery, such as when a bone tumor is removed
  • How is the procedure performed?

    A bone graft is most often done under general anesthesia. This means the person is put to sleep with medicines and can feel no pain.

    If the bone for the graft is going to be taken from the person, it is usually removed from the top of the hipbone or the ribs. Otherwise, the bone is obtained from a bone bank, which stores donor bones.

    A cut is made over the affected bone, and the bone defect or fracture is located. The bone to be grafted is shaped to fit the affected area. Bits and pieces of bone graft are often held in place with bone wax, a type of plastic material. The skin is closed with sutures or staples. If the bone graft was on an arm or leg, a splint or cast may be applied.

    Preparation & Expectations

    What happens right after the procedure?

    The person will go to the recovery room after the procedure while the anesthesia wears off. Ice may be applied to the affected area to relieve pain and swelling. Pain medicine will be given as needed. After an hour or so, the person is then taken to his or her hospital room to recover. In some cases, the person may be able to go home the same day.

    Home Care and Complications

    What happens later at home?

    The person should slowly increase his or her activity. The bone graft may take up to 3 months to heal. The surgeon may give other homecare instructions. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

    What are the potential complications after the procedure?

    There are possible complications with any surgery. These include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • There is a chance of rejection of the bone graft. Rejection is not usually a risk if a person's own bone is used.


    Author:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Written:
    Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
    Edit Date:05/27/02
    Reviewer:Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed:10/01/01


    Lehman, Daniel and Rougraff, Bruce "Recent Advances in Bone Grafting" www.medlib.iupui.edu/bcr/recadv.htm

    Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. (c) 1995 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.