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Shooting from the Hip after Graft Donation for Spinal Fusion

Posted on: 06/24/2005
In this study 208 patients were followed for two years after spinal fusion. Each one donated bone from the pelvis for the graft. Patients were asked about pain and appearance of the donor site. Pain was measured by intensity and by how long it lasted.

The researchers found that one-third of the patients still had pain two years after the operation. Most of the patients (84 percent) thought the graft site looked "good" at the end of two years. About 16 percent said it looked "fair" or "poor."

Other studies have reported this problem of graft site pain lasting for months to years. Many of those studies are done by reading the patients' charts (called a retrospective study). This study was different in that the patients were contacted directly at six weeks, three, six, 12, and 24 months.

The authors report it doesn't seem to matter which side (right or left) the graft comes from. Whether the graft is removed from the front of the body or from the side doesn't seem to make any difference either. In all cases, pain occurs lasting weeks to months to years.

This study doesn't report if pain changed patients' daily activities. The amount of bone taken for the graft wasn't measured. A future study might be able to see if there's a link between amount of bone removed and pain levels afterwards.

Rick C. Sasso, MD, et al. Iliac Crest Bone Graft Donor Site Pain after Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion. In Journal of Spinal Disorders. February 2005. Vol. 18. Supplement 1. Pp. S77-S81.

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