What is A Bone Graft

One of the most common surgeries done either in the neck or in the back is Spine or Spinal Surgery. The main idea behind the surgical procedure is to bring together dislocated bones in the spine so that they will heal together into a single, functional and solid bone. However, in order for this to be accomplish, there is the need for a scaffolding element. This scaffolding element is usually an additional bone and is usually refers to as a bone graft.

Why Bone Graft

A basic integral part of spinal fusion surgery is the use of a bone graft or bone grafting. Today, the surgical procedure is use for many types of orthopedic procedures that require bones to heal. Usually, the bones can be gotten from two major sources, which are

  • Autograft: This is a type of bone grafting that make use of the bones from the patient’s own body
  • Allograft: Just like blood bank, there is also a bone bank. Hence, the type of bone grafting that make use of bone from the bone bank is refers to as allograft.

Pros of Bone Graft

Even though it also has its own cons, the pros of bone grafting actually outweighs the cons. So, why the need of a bone graft? In any spinal fusion surgery, bone graft performs the following functions:

  1. Stimulate Healing

The main motive behind the use of bone graft is to stimulate the healing process of surrounding bones. Chemicals embedded in a bone graft stimulate nearby bones to heal. If the bone graft is auto graft, there is the chance of the presence of osteocytes (bone cells) that survived the transfer, thereby enhancing the formation of new bone. Even, allografts can  perform the bone healing process.

  1. Provides Support

Another pro of bone graft is the ability to provide structural support for fusion to take place. In fact, larger piece of bone can be used to fill the gap between two dislocated bones. For instance, a surgeon might remove the cartilage between the vertebrae bone (Intervertebral disc) and then place a chunk of bone graft into the empty space created. As time goes on, the entire piece of bone that was grafted into the space will be remodeled and replaced by the body with a neo-bone. Of course, the fusion time will depend on the size of the bone graft. But, fusion time usually takes several years because the fusion process is a slow one.

  1. Bone graft can help improve the shape and size of bones at the graft site.

What to Do After A Bone Graft

After the spinal fusion surgery using a bone graft, the fusion time usually takes a longer period of time with some running into years. However, there are specific measures that you can take to fasten the healing period of the bone. These measures range from dietary control to infection care. These measures, otherwise best known as post-operative measures include the following:

  1. Dietary Control
  2. Exercise
  3. Managing Pains
  4. Infection Care
  5. Be on the Look Out

Dietary Control

The type of food you eat after the spinal fusion surgery can determine how fast the fusion time will be. These foods or nutrients are called fusion supplements. Some of the foods that will help reduce the fusion time include:

Calcium

Taking food rich in calcium is very important as calcium, itself is an important part of bone formation process. In fact, a lot of calcium put together will give rise to bone! Some of the calcium-rich food includes the following:

  1. Milk
  2. Yogurt
  3. Cheese
  4.  Lettuce
  5. Fruit and Legumes
  6. Seafood etc.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) and D (Ergocalciferol or Cholecalciferol)

Another important fusion supplements that must be present for bone formation is Vitamins C and D. They help to absorb iron by the bone which in turn give strength to bones. Some of the food rich in these vitamins include:

  1. Orange
  2. Fish
  3. Eggs etc.

In case you dislike those foods or allergic to them, there are other alternatives. These alternatives are vitamin supplements that will provide for you the necessary vitamins require for complete bone formation.

What Else?

Other dietary-related controls that you must take note of include the following:

  • Avoid Excess Sugar: Researches have shown that Diabetes Mellitus, which is the excess accumulation of sugar interferes with the bone formation process.
  • Avoid Junk Food: Try to eat healthy food
  • Avoid Drinking Alcohol
  • Avoid Smoking: On a general note, all spinal surgery patients are advised not to use any nicotinic material or products as various researches have shown that nicotine, in particular interferes with the ability of bones to heal properly. In fact, the risk of non-healing fusion is three times more likely if the patient is expose to nicotine after spinal surgery. In addition, smoking can also inhibit the relieving effect of pain medications. While smoking is a very difficult habit to quit, there are major pros to quitting smoking after having a spinal fusion surgery. To know the ways to quit smoking, click here

Exercise

Of course, this is very obvious. In order to enable faster healing process, you have to engage yourself in exercise, not so much exercise though. You should take note of the following during exercise

  • Try shifting position frequently
  • Avoid long period of sitting down
  • Take short walks, along with gradually increasing other activities
  • Avoid lifting heavy Objects and twisting of your body.

Managing Pain

Among the cons of bone graft, especially if it is that of autograft, is the post-operative pains usually encountered by patients. However, there are attitudes put in place to manage the pains. They include

  • Make use of ice packs as they have been shown to reduce pain
  • Follow Surgeon’s prescription and
  • Do not try to drink alcohol when even a narcotic is prescribed as they have been known to cause drowsiness.

Infection Care

Finally, the incision site, where the incision was done on your body, have to be washed every day and checked at least twice in a day for the sign of infection. This is because they serve as a gateway through which infectious organisms can enter the body and cause disease. The Surgeon should be contacted if symptoms like fever, redness, discharge etc. are noticed around the site.

Showers are good for keeping the incision clean but baths and swimming is not a good option

Conclusion

Bone Graft is an important part of spinal fusion surgery and it has, over the years proven to be a successful method. However, it takes a longer period of time for the bone used in the procedure to heal. But, thanks to fusion supplements like vitamins, calcium etc. as they act as a catalyst in the bone-forming process. Apart from these supplements, there are other measures that can be taken in order to enhance the healing process. They include all other post-operative cares apart from the dietary control.

However, always discuss with your spinal surgeon as he/she will provide you with a list of recommendations, including nutrition and dietary information in order to boost the bone healing process.

 

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