Natural History of Posterior Iliac Crest Bone Graft Donation for Spinal Surgery: A Prospective Analysis of Morbidity


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Abstract

Study Design. A prospective study was conducted to examine bone graft donor site morbidity in 106 consecutive patients undergoing posterior spinal fusion.Objectives.To perform a prospective analysis of donor site morbidity, to document the incidence of major complications, and to collect information on the impact of autologous bone graft harvesting from the posterior iliac crest on the overall outcome of spinal surgery.Summary of Background. Bone graft harvesting from the posterior iliac crest for spinal fusion is a source of significant morbidity. Previous retrospective case studies indicate that minor complications are common, but they do not define the natural history and complications of posterior iliac crest bone graft harvesting.Methods.A standardized harvesting technique was used. At 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery, the patients completed a proforma questionnaire rating symptoms on a visual analog scale and underwent a postoperative examination by the surgeon. Finally, overall surgical outcome was assessed at 12 months.Results.The major component of morbidity is donor site pain. Mean pain scores were 1.640 at 3 months, 1.812 at 6 months, and 1.207 at 12 months. The pain at 12 months was significantly less than at 3 and 6 months (P = 0.005), with a trend toward the highest scores at 6 months. A pain score of 0 was reported by 55% of the patients. Local sensory loss was found in 10% of the patients. Outcome assessment showed significant differences in morbidity for surgery performed at different spinal levels (P = 0.001), with lumbosacral surgery resulting in worse outcomes than either cervical (P < 0.05) or thoracolumbar (P < 0.05) surgery. Significantly higher visual analog scores were observed at 6 months in patients with poorer overall outcomes.Conclusions.According to this study, it is reasonable to reassure patients that a good result from spinal surgery will not be compromised by severe symptoms or major morbidity secondary to posterior iliac crest bone graft donation. Before surgery, patients may be advised concerning the risks of donor site pain, which improves significantly by 12 months, local tenderness, and uncommonly localized sensory loss.

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