Bones are an integral part of how our body functions. They give structure and strength and protect sensitive organs like the brain. But despite being very hard, they are not impervious to damage and injury. Sometimes, your body can heal itself when you break a bone. However, the body's regenerative capabilities are limited. Some injuries can be too severe to heal on their own.
A soldier from a war in 1686 had a skull defect from an injury that left him exposed. A Dutch surgeon, Job van Meekeren, used the first documented bone graft to help repair the soldier’s skull. Since then, surgery has become a standard solution for extensive bone injuries. Its use has also expanded, like for improving bone density in places that require them.
What Is Bone Grafting?
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure where a surgeon uses bone from somewhere else to repair or rebuild bone mass in another bone area. Depending on the scope of the surgery, it can either be a minor or major procedure.
Bone grafting can work for any part of your body as long as your bone cells are active. The most common bone material that surgeons may use is from your own body. They can harvest bone from your hips, ribs, or legs to perform the procedure.
Unlike organ transplants, your body rarely rejects bone transplants, provided they are similar. Most bones are made up of bone matrix, the material that hardens the bones. It is under this matrix, or within it, that the cells that regenerate bone exists. These are key to bone grafting.
How Do Bone Grafts Work?
The cells within the bone matrix are responsible for regenerating bone material. When you break your hand or leg in one place, your bone cells can usually regenerate bone mass, especially if your bone is in the correct position and in good health. However, some injuries lead to significant bone loss, making regeneration difficult.
When you have a large portion of missing bone, a surgeon will place a bone graft in the specific place that needs healing. The cells in the bone graft join themselves to the original cells, sealing the gap in the bone.
Usually, surgeons will perform bone grafts as part of another procedure. For instance, a bone graft in the mouth is usually part of a dental implant procedure.
Types of Bone Grafting
Public health services are usually stringent on handling, cleaning, and processing bone tissue. Here are some of the most common bone grafting techniques:
A surgeon usually harvests bone from another part of your body, commonly the top of the hip bone, and transplants it to where it is needed. The surgeon extracts the bone through a small incision. The best thing about this option is that the chances of rejection or failure are low.
This is the second most common choice for surgeons. It uses a donor bone, which is more common for spinal fusion surgery.
A xenograft was what Job van Meekeren used on the soldier's skull. It involves using bone from another animal, usually a cow.
· Bone Marrow Aspirate
The surgeon takes a bone marrow sample from the hip bone in this procedure. They then use it alone or with other bone grafts to increase the chance of fusion.
· Synthetic Graft
Synthetic graft utilizes artificially created bone matter. It is usually made from different porous substances and sometimes with protein to encourage bone development.
For more about bone grafting, visit Weston Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at our office in Weston, Florida. Call (954) 507-6441 to book an appointment today.