Bone grafting

Bone grafting is a safe surgical procedure to repair damaged bones almost anywhere in your body. In a bone graft, your orthopedic surgeon transplants a piece of bone from your hips, legs or ribs, or from a donor or cadaver, into the area where your damaged bone needs to heal, so that it fuses with the rest of that bone.

When bones can't fully heal themselves

Bones heal naturally as soon as a bone breaks and the bone cells kick into action, but if a fracture results in bone loss, the bone can’t heal completely. The best solution is a bone graft, where the cells inside the transplanted piece of bone can fuse themselves to the existing bone exactly where needed and promote bone growth.

When to come see us

If you’ve suffered serious bone damage from a fracture or disease and need a bone graft, make an appointment with a UCHealth orthopedic specialist so we can begin the process of complete healing. We specialize in bone grafts and will work closely with you on the best treatment plan for your situation.

Bone grafting promotes bone healing and growth for a variety of conditions, including:

  • A new bone fracture that damaged the bone seriously enough that your healthcare provider thinks a graft is necessary to fully heal.
  • An old fracture that has not healed well, and was not already treated with a graft.
  • Diseases of the bone, like osteonecrosis or cancer.
  • Spinal fusion surgery.
  • Surgically implanted devices to promote bone growth around the structure, like a total knee replacement.

As part of your personalized plan, your orthopedic surgeon will help you decide if you want to use a bone from a donor or a bone from elsewhere in your body. Using your own bone means you will have surgery on that part of your body as well as the bone being treated. Donated bone has some small risks, which your surgeon will discuss with you.

Bone grafting procedures are open surgery, so you will be put under general anesthesia for the procedure. Depending on the procedure and your condition, you might be able to return home the same day. You’ll know what to expect after your surgery to help your bone graft heal, which may include:

  • Diet. A diet high in calcium and vitamin D will help your bone heal.
  • Immobility. You might need a splint or brace, and you’ll need to avoid putting weight on that bone for a while. Your plan will also include instructions on how to move that area when necessary.
  • Follow-up appointments. Your healthcare provider may take a series of X-rays to see how well your bone heals.
  • Medications. You’ll be prescribed pain medicine to help relieve pain, and you might need to take blood thinners to prevent blood clots.
  • No smoking. Quitting smoking helps bone growth and healing.
  • Physical therapy. Helps restore strength and flexibility to your muscles in that area.

If you follow your treatment plan carefully, you will have the best chance at healthy bone tissue and full recovery in the spot of the transplanted bone. Healing time depends on the type of bone graft—a minor procedure may take a few weeks, while a major graft may take six months to a year to fully heal.