Types of Bone Grafts Used in Spine Surgery

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 22, 2018

Bone Graft Spine Surgery

Bone grafts are commonly used during spine surgery to increase stabilization in the area. There are a number of different types of bone grafts, and a number of different factors determine which type of graft is best for your situation. Below, we take a closer look at some of the most common types of bone grafts used during back surgery.



An autograft is considered the standard type of bone graft in which extra bone from one area of the body is harvested and moved and “grafted” into another part of the body, like the spine. When harvested to be used in spine surgery, the graft is often taken from the iliac crest, which is on the rim of your pelvic bone. A small portion is scooped out of the crest and used to make the bone graft. Some patients may experience some discomfort in the hip for a little while after the graft is removed, and the amount that can be taken from this area lessens as we get older and our bones naturally thin and weaken.

Local Bone Autograft

As the name suggests, a local bone autograft involves taking a bone from the same section and using it as a graft. For example, if part of a spinal disc is causing pressure on the nerve roots, a section of the disc may be removed and then reinserted to act as a bone graft during a spinal fusion procedure. There is only a limited amount of bone that can be harvested in a local bone autograft, but it is beneficial because you know the bone won’t be rejected by your body.

Cadaver or Donor Allograft

Some individuals donate part of their bodies to bone banks for medical use after they pass away. A bone graft can be made using an allograft harvested from a cadaver or a healthy individual who is willing to donate. The bone is dead, so it acts as a bridge between sections and is rarely rejected by a recipient.

Stem Cell Allograft

Allograft stem cells can also come from a cadaver or a donor. These are living cells that have the ability to form bone cells and aid in bone fusion. These are also rarely rejected by the recipient because the stem cells have yet to differentiate into specific cell types.

Synthetic Bone Grafts

Synthetic bone grafts are made from calcium materials and are similar in shape and consistency to an autograft bone. These can be made without harvesting bone from the patient or a cadaver and are usually available in large amounts.

Bone Morphogenic Protein

Everyone has proteins in their body that help to naturally stimulate bone growth. One common type is called bone morphogenic protein (BMP). It has been used to promote solid spinal fusions for years and is a common bone graft option. BMP has powerful bone-forming capabilities, so careful monitoring needs to occur to ensure too much bone isn’t produced, as this can increase a person’s risk of developing bone cancer. With that said, BMP is a very safe graft option.

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