Bone Graft Alternatives Lead To Shorter Recovery Times
Originally published Spring 2001

Patients requiring spinal fusions now face shorter recovery times thanks to new bone graft alternatives. Traditionally, bone from a patient’s own iliac crest was used to complete a spinal fusion. Today, we can now utilize banked bone as an alternative. This allows patients to avoid the pain and inconvenience of a donor incision, which often causes pain greater than that of the spinal incision itself.

According to Rick Finger, M.D., of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, banked bone is available in chip, block, and putty form. These non-patient derived “substitutes” are generally appropriate and available for most operative procedures of the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine.

“In those cases where only banked bone is used for the graft material, pain is greatly reduced, and a significant reduction in hospital stay is possible,” said Dr. Finger.
Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates performs over 600 spinal fusions each year.

Example of a spinal fusion utilizing banked bone and a titanium mesh cage.
The Keys To A Successful Spinal Fusion
During spinal fusion, two or more vertebrae are “welded” together using grafted bone and internal devices such as metal rods. The result is a single, solid bone. This eliminates motion between vertebrae segments, which is often the cause of significant pain. Spinal fusion is used in the treatment of herniated disks, injuries to spinal vertebrae, a weak or unstable spine caused by infections or tumors, and abnormal spine curvatures such as scoliosis or kyphosis.

“Supplements to grafting have been refined over the past 10 to 15 years,” said Dr. Finger. “We now use plates, screws, cages, and wires to help promote fusion. Newer titanium mesh cages are also available for those operations involving structural, or weight bearing bone.”

Generally, over 90% of spinal fusions are successful. Patient factors such as diabetes, vascular disease, use of anti-inflammatory drugs (steroidal and non-steroidal), infection, and age, can all have a negative impact on the success of this procedure. According to Dr. Finger, tobacco may well be the largest negative factor. A patient’s chances for a successful fusion may be reduced up to 50% if he or she is a tobacco user.

For more information about this procedure or the use of banked bone in spinal fusions, click here.





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