They come in handy when there’s a fracture and the bone ends can’t join. The filler acts like a bridge connecting broken bones to make a new bond. It’s no surprise they’re so popular in the orthopedic world.
These fillers have tiny holes, allowing the bone to grow back over it. That way, new bone cells find it easier to spread. Also, the substance doesn’t mess with body tissue because it’s biocompatible. It won’t cause any weird reactions.
According to Dr. Mbabuike, physicians inject the substance into a gap in the bone, usually in putty or paste form. A wide selection of materials can make this substance. It can be calcium phosphate, hydroxyapatite, or even synthetic stuff like polymers.
Once the doctor injects the filler, it hardens and mixes with the bone around it. This way, it’s like the original bone. Think of it as filling a pothole in the road but on the bone. So it’s easier to bounce back from injuries.
This procedure is usually done under anesthesia so you won’t feel a thing. After the doctors inject the filler, you may feel discomfort as your body adjusts to the material. The good thing is that you’ll have a fully healed bone in no time.
During the procedure, the orthopedic surgeon sticks a syringe until it gets to the bone. Then deposits the bone filler.
Natural versus synthetic bone grafts
With natural bone grafts, the doctor uses your body’s tissue or a donor’s. They can help fix broken bones, fill gaps, and even grow new bone. And since they’re natural, your body is less likely to reject them.
Now, synthetics provide another solution using stuff like ceramics or polymers. They do the same job. The difference is that synthetics are easier to get than natural bone grafts.
So, what’s the deal? Dr. Mbabuike says it depends on the situation. If natural bone grafts are an option and the patient is good to go, they’re great. But if not, synthetic grafts can do the trick. Either way, grafts have some pretty cool potential uses.
When orthopedic surgeons use a donor’s bone, the name of the procedure is an allograft. Meanwhile, autograft involves your bone tissue.
An allograft may be useful in spinal fusion surgery. First, they clean and sterilize the donor’s bone. Then, they either freeze it or dry it out to keep it fresh until it’s time for surgery.
The problem with allografts is that harvesting bone from donors affects quality. Several factors also influence the quality. A patient’s age, genetic makeup, and health determine how it turns out. In the meantime, autograft is less likely to cause any transplant issues.
That’s why Dr. Mbabuike believes there’s room for alternatives. He notes that although spinal fusion success rates are higher, the results differ from one patient to another.
Sometimes, when physicians do back surgery called dorsolateral lumbar fusion, it only works 56% of the time. And that’s even though most orthopedic surgeons think using your bone is the best way to go. As the results show, it doesn’t do well when it comes to combining the bones after transplant. Thankfully, doctors can always look at other options.
About Dr. Jean “Jack” Mbabuike
Jack is a New York-based physician specializing in orthopedic pain management. He graduated from NYU Grossman School of Medicine in 2009.
Jean Jacques Mbabuike
Jean Jacques Mbabuike
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