If you need to undergo anterior cervical fusion surgery to repair damaged neck discs, you’ve probably heard your doctor use the term bone graft. Some surgeons are great at explaining different procedures, while others use the terms thinking that you understand exactly what’s going to happen during the procedure. It’s always best to speak with your doctor about anything you don’t understand, but you may also want to conduct some research at home to help ease any fears about the surgery.
What Is a Bone Graft?
A bone graft is essentially a piece of bone used to fill an empty space within the body where bone used to exist. In anterior cervical fusion surgery, the surgeon removes the damaged disc from in between the vertebrates. An empty space is left between the vertebrate, which could essentially cause the vertebrates to shift and cause more pain. To rectify this, surgeons shape a piece of bone to fit into the empty space.
The surgeon often screws a metal plate into the vertebrates that surround the bone graft to insure a clean fusion of the vertebrates. Fusion is when the vertebrates begin to grow together after surgery, eventually creating one bone structure where the damaged disc used to exist.
Where Does the Surgeon Get the Bone?
The bone used for the graft will come either from a bone bank, where donated bones from organ donors have been properly stored for future needs, or from your own body. In an anterior cervical fusion surgery, bone taken from your own body will often come from the hip, although some surgeons will take bone from the neck area. The removal of the bone will happen the same time as your neck surgery, so you will not need to make additional doctor visits to harvest bone for your graft. The main benefit of taking bone from your hip is that it’s full of living cells that make fusion easier.
If your doctor is unable to harvest bone from your body, he or she will use donor bone. This bone is tested and stored to ensure that it’s free from diseases and it will work well to assist with the fusion of your vertebrates. The only downside to donor bone is that no living cells exist, so the doctor must use bone shavings to fill the donor bone with living cells to aid fusion of the vertebrates.
X-rays will be taken to ensure proper placement of the bone graft, and over time, the damaged area will heal. The main benefit of anterior cervical fusion surgery is that most patients report a great decrease in pain post-surgery. If bone grafting makes you nervous, speak with your doctor who can show you illustrations or even videos that describe the process in great detail.