Spinal fusion surgery makes it possible for surgeons to strengthen the spine, restore function, and reduce pain in patients who need it. This type of surgery has traditionally relied on bone grafts. Bone grafts are small pieces of bone, usually taken from the patient’s own hip or pelvis, and placed into the spaces between two vertebrae. In time, this added bone “fuses” to the vertebrae and hardens like regular bone.
While this is often the best way to treat a variety of spinal disorders, bone grafts carry with them a host of possible problems. The biggest downside to bone grafts is that fusion does not always take place. Fusion rates can vary, based on the procedure, between 75% and 98%. In addition, many patients report significant post-operative pain in the area where the graft was taken – pain that often lasts for many months or years. In some patients, the bone graft harvest site can remain a permanent source of discomfort. Likewise, bone grafting requires additional time in the operating room, which increases many surgical risks such as infection and bleeding, as well as prolongs the patient’s hospital stay and recovery time.
Today, there is a new alternative to bone grafting that alleviates these problems. It is a genetically produced protein called recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2), or just BMP for short. This remarkable material stimulates the body to grow new bone. BMP is a naturally occurring human protein that has been isolated and reproduced as a result of cutting edge human gene research. Numerous clinical trials have determined that BMP is a safe and effective alternative to bone graft. Most importantly, BMP facilitates fusion at a rate equivalent to or greater than traditional bone grafts. Thus, BMP allows surgeons to perform fusion surgery without relying on bone grafts.
This shortens the amount of time in surgery, reduces complication rates, and allows for a quicker and less painful recovery time. Patients whose fusion surgery involved the use of BMP are able to return to their activities of daily living quicker than ever before.
At our practice we use BMP in a variety of fusion surgeries. Our goal is to treat our patients’ spinal conditions in the most effective and safest ways possible – and to return them to an active and pain free life. If you are a candidate for spinal fusion surgery, our specialists will talk to you about the possibility of using BMP.