Types of Bone Graft for Spine Fusions
Spinal fusion is a common surgical procedure used to treat problems related to the vertebrae in the neck and back. It involves joining or “fusing” two or more small bones in the spine so they can heal and become one solid bone. The main goal of the procedure is to stabilize the damaged vertebrae, limit their movements, and bring relief from pain and other symptoms.
Orthopedic specialists usually recommend spinal fusion only when non-surgical methods fail to improve the spinal problem. Some examples of medical conditions that might benefit from a spinal fusion include the following:
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
- Fracture in the spine
- Spinal infection
- Tumor in the spinal column
These illnesses typically cause debilitating symptoms, such as severe back pain, muscle weakness, and mobility problems.
A spinal fusion is one of the most common options to relieve such symptoms since it eliminates motion between the small bones. The procedure involves two phases: bone grafting and immobilization.
Bone grafting in spinal fusion
There are several different techniques and approaches to performing spinal fusion. It will all depend on the patient’s specific condition and what part of the spine is affected. However, all of these techniques follow the same principle of using bone material to enhance the fusion. This process is called bone grafting.
Bone grafting is performed by placing a bone or bonelike material in between the spaces of the vertebrae that need to be connected. This will help produce bone-forming cells and protein in the area, which is required to permanently fuse the two bones and make one solid vertebrae.
There are various types of bone grafts available for spinal fusion. Your doctor will choose the best graft or combination of grafts depending on your health, age, and location of fusion. Some examples of grafts include the following:
An autograft is a gold standard in tissue grafting. It involves harvesting bone materials from an area of the patient’s own body, such as the pelvic bones, ribs, or spine. This type of graft is an ideal one since the bone cells, protein, and calcified matrix came from the patient’s own, thus lowering the risk of graft rejection.
In some cases, your surgeon may opt to harvest tissues from the removed bone materials during decompression. This is called a local bone autograft. However, this will only be possible if there’s enough bone tissue available to facilitate the fusion.
Another viable source of bone tissue is one that comes from a tissue bank一an agency that harvests, processes, stores, and distributes human tissues coming from a cadaver. If a donor’s bone is used, then the process is called allograft.
Allografts come in freeze-dried form, which means that there are no living bone cells or proteins in them. Its main goal in spinal fusion would be to provide enough scaffolding to allow the natural bone to grow on its surface.
Demineralized bone matrix (DBM)
A demineralized bone matrix is a type of man-made bone graft substitute. This bone material has already been processed to remove its mineral content, which is mainly calcium. Like an allograft, its main function serves as a scaffold where new bone can grow. But its unique advantage is that it contains specialized bone-forming proteins that can stimulate bone healing in the area.
Ceramic-based bone graft extenders
Ceramic-based bone grafts or synthetic bone are created in the shape and consistency of an autograft bone tissue. It is made up of calcium materials, such as calcium phosphate and calcium sulfate.
However, synthetic bones lack the necessary cells and proteins needed to stimulate bone fusion. Like DBMs, they will only function as a scaffold or bone extenders; that’s why they must be combined with other bone products to facilitate a successful spinal fusion.
Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)
A bone morphogenetic protein is a type of growth factor that can be naturally found in human bodies. Its main function is to stimulate bone growth and formation, thus making it an ideal material for bone grafting.
Bone marrow aspirate
Bone marrow is soft, fatty substance found in the center of most long bones. It contains stem cells, which have the ability to differentiate into other types of cells, such as blood vessels or bone tissue.
Because of their bone-forming abilities, doctors sometimes combine them with autograft or allograft to hasten the healing of the newly fused spine. However, there’s still much to learn about this novel procedure, that’s why it’s not as common as other types of bone grafts.
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The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.