A bone graft is when a piece of bone is added to the site of a fracture or other bone problem. The new bone can spur bone growth, bridge a gap in a bone, provide support, and help you heal. The new bone may come from another part of your body or from another person. Rarely, man-made grafts are also used.

Iliac Crest Graft Harvest
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Reasons for Procedure

A bone graft may be done to:

  • Treat a fracture that isn't healing
  • Rebuild a shattered bone
  • Fill gaps in bone caused by cysts or tumors
  • Fuse bones on either side of a joint
  • Speed bone growth to help anchor a man-made joint or other implant

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will go over some problems, like:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage
  • Rejection of a donor graft
  • Anesthesia reaction
  • Fat particles that come apart from the bone marrow and travel to the lung (rare)

Before your graft, talk to your doctor about ways to manage things that may raise your risk of problems, such as:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Leading up to your graft:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the graft.
  • Talk to your doctor about any herbs or supplements that you take. You may be asked to stop taking some.
  • Do not eat or drink after midnight the day before your surgery.
  • Arrange for help at home after your graft.


You may be given

Description of the Procedure

The graft method depends on the type and site of the bone injury or problem. It also depends on the type of graft you get.

Most bone grafts use your own bone. Often, the bone is taken from the bone at your hip, about where you would wear a belt. A cut is made over the part of the bone that will be removed. A special bone chisel will remove the piece of bone. The cut is then closed.

A cut will be made in the skin of the site in need of the graft. Any scar or dead tissue will be removed from the site. Your bone will then be rebuilt with the graft. Plates and screws may be used to keep the bone in place. A cast or brace may be needed after the graft.

After Procedure

An x-ray may be taken to make sure the bone is in the right place.

How Long Will It Take?

The length of your graft will depend on the repair.

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia stops pain during the graft. Pain after the graft can be relieved with medicine.

Average Hospital Stay

Your stay will depend on the surgery and your progress.

Post-procedure Care

During your stay, the staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your cuts covered

There are also steps you can take to lower your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your cuts

Care depends on the graft and graft site:

  • Do not smoke. Smoking can slow bone healing.
  • Some grafts can fail. Your doctor will track progress with x-rays.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain that you can't control with the medicines you were given
  • Pain, burning, urgency or frequency of urination, or blood in the urine
  • Cough, problems breathing, or chest pain
  • Numbness or tingling at the site
  • New or unexpected symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons


The Canadian Orthopaedic Association

When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation


Bone and tissue transplantation. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Updated January 2009. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Bone grafting. The Cleveland Clinic website. Available at Accessed May 29, 2018.

Bone grafts in spine surgery. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Updated January 2016. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM  Last Updated: 5/29/2018