Bone graft

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A bone graft is surgery to place new bone or bone substitutes into spaces around a broken bone or bone defects.

Alternative Names

Autograft; Allograft


A bone graft can be taken from the patient's own healthy bone (this is called an autograft). Or, it can be taken from frozen, donated bone (allograft). In some cases, a manmade (synthetic) bone substitute is used.

During surgery, the surgeon makes a cut over the bone defect. The bone graft is shaped and inserted into and around the area. The bone graft can be held in place with pins, plates, or screws.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Bone grafts are used to:

  • Fuse joints to prevent movement
  • Repair broken bones (fractures) that have bone loss
  • Repair injured bone that has not healed


Risks of the procedure include:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain at the place on the body where the bone was removed

After the Procedure

Recovery time depends on the injury or defect being treated and the size of the bone graft. Your recovery may take 2 weeks to 3 months. The bone graft itself will take up to 3 months or longer to heal.

You may be told to avoid extreme exercise for up to 6 months. Ask your doctor or nurse what you can and cannot safely do.

You will need to keep the bone graft area clean and dry.Your doctor or nurse will give you instructions about showering.

Do not smoke. Smoking slows or prevents bone healing. If you smoke, the graft is more likely to fail.


Outlook (Prognosis)

Most bone grafts help the bone defect heal with little risk of graft rejection.


Crenshaw AH, Jr. Surgical techniques and approaches. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 1.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 9/8/2014
  • C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francosco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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