Bone grafting is a procedure performed to replace bone or augment bone healing during a surgery such as an orthopedic reconstruction (for example, in the case of a fractured tibia) and spinal fusion. Most commonly, your own bone (autograft) is harvested from your pelvis for these types of procedures. However, when your own bone quantity and/or quality are not enough alone to assist in these types of surgeries, other bone grafting options must be considered.

There are four key types of bone graft:

  • Autograft - Bone taken surgically from one part of your body and transplanted to another part
  • Allograft - Bone from a human donor
  • Synthetic - Artificially produced
  • Growth Factors - Genetically engineered


Bone grafting is used with several common spinal fusion procedures, including:

Bone grafts encourage bone formation to stabilize the spine and achieve the spinal fusion.

Possible Side Effects of Spinal Fusion with Bone Grafting

As with any surgery, surgical treatment is not without risk. A variety of complications related to surgery or the use of bone graft can occur. Some of these may be severe, affecting your outcome. You may also need to have additional surgery to correct these complications. Talk to your doctor for specific risks associated with the type of bone graft you’ll receive. Some of the possible complications include:

  • Allergic reaction to the implant materials
  • Bleeding, which may require a blood transfusion
  • Bone formation that is not normal, in excess, or in an unintended location
  • Damage to nearby tissues or nerves
  • Death
  • Fetal development complications
  • Infection
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Respiratory (breathing) problems
  • Scar formation or other problems with the surgical incision
  • Side effects from anesthesia or the surgical approach
  • Skin swelling or irritation

If you think you may be experiencing some of these issues after your surgery, contact your doctor immediately.


Bone grafting is one treatment option that can help heal broken bones. During trauma surgery, a metal rod may be used to stabilize the bone, while bone graft is placed at the fracture site to stimulate bone healing and growth.

There are alternative treatments to trauma surgery that don’t use bone graft. You should discuss these options with your doctor before you make your decision. Only your doctor can determine whether a bone graft is appropriate for you.


What keeps the bone graft from growing bone in other places in my body?

Bone graft will stimulate bone formation under specific circumstances, and only when present at a certain concentration. These criteria will only be met at the site of surgery where the bone graft is implanted. 

I have heard that hip pain after bone harvesting can last up to 2 years or longer. Is that true?

One of the disadvantages of taking bone from the hip is local pain at the harvesting site. This pain can sometimes be significant. Most often, it is temporary and resolves during the spinal recovery period. Occasionally, the pain may be more chronic. With an allograft, synthetic, or growth factors, patients can avoid the need to have bone harvested for a trauma procedure or spinal fusion.