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Spinal Fusion: Understanding Bone Graft

To fuse the spine, very small pieces of extra bone are needed. Called bone graft, this bone acts as the “cement” that fuses the vertebrae together.There are many different types of bone grafts. Two of the more common types are grafts from a bone bank or from your own body. Your surgeon will choose the type of graft that’s best for you.

From a bone bank

  • Bone banks collect, evaluate, and store bone. The bone comes from human donors who have died.

  • Donors are checked for their cause of death and medical history. Tests are done to check for viruses such as HIV and hepatitis. The bone is also treated before it is used as a graft. The risk of getting a disease from bone graft is very low.

From your own body

  • If bone from your own body is used, a small amount of bone is taken from a part of your pelvic bone, called the iliac crest.

  • The bone is removed during the fusion surgery—a separate surgery is not needed. Bone may be taken through the incision made for your fusion, or through a separate incision. The area the bone is taken from can hurt quite a bit until it heals.

  • Apart from grafts from a bone bank or your own body, there are also other artificial bone graft materials that can be used. Your surgeon will decide whether it is a better choice for your fusion.

Image of the pelvis showing front of pelvic bone

Image of the pelvis showing back of the pelvic bone


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