A number of medical procedures are invasive operations designed to repair or replace tissues such as muscle, bones, and more. Often, surgeons will work with the patient’s skeleton, and this means providing bone grafting or bone repair. Devices for graft delivery make this delicate operation safer and easier, and bone graft companies may provide them wholesale to medical services. Meanwhile, there are two broad types of bone transplants: allografts, and autografts. What is the difference between these two bone transplant types, and what might a patient expect from a bone allograft?
The Medical Industry and Bones
Bone allografts fit into the larger scheme of the American medical industry and bone procedures in general. American patients may get bone grafts for any number of reasons, but four particular reasons are common. Often, a patient has multiple fractures that are failing to heal correctly, or the patient may need fusion surgery to help two bones heal across a damaged joint. In yet other cases, a patient needs bone regeneration after experiencing a disease or injury, or a patient needs bone allografts or autografts after the implantation of medical devices such as joint replacements.
A 16-year study has been conducted and completed to track how often Americans get bone transplants done and where the replacement material comes from, and the results show that most often, real bone tissue is used. Among two million bone graft patients, 83% of them had grafts that involved autogenous bone grafts harvested from that very patient, and only 17% involved artificially grown bone graft substitute material. That same study also found that among those two million bone graft patients, the trend of using traditional grafts over bone graft substitutes in the United States is consistent. All of these grafts may be done with many different medical devices, as the United States alone is home to 40% of the entire world’s medical device market. And according to the Department of Commerce, the United States exports some $44 billion in medical devices every year around the world. The U.S. alone has a medical device market worth an impressive $140 billion.
Allografts and Autografts
When a patient is undergoing bone transplant surgery, that patient may get bone tissue either from their own body (autografts) or from someone else (allografts).
In the case of autografts, this bone tissue may be the safest and fastest-growing bone tissue to use, but naturally, this means that the patient will have two surgical sites rather than one. The patient may take this into account before the surgery begins, if possible, and choose whether or not they want that done. Each medical case is different, and for some patients, the risks may be higher than others. Getting an autograft done is also likely to extend the patient’s hospital stay overall.
In other cases, a patient will get an allograft done instead. This is the inverse of an autograft, when the patient will receive bone tissues from another patient. This means that the patient will not have a secondary surgical site (and possible associated risks), although the bone tissue, being foreign, will take longer to be accepted in the body. It may be noted, though, that the patient’s immune system will not actually reject the new tissue the way it would for transplanted organs, so there is no need to suppress the patient’s immune system. An allograft procedure will not extend a patient’s hospital stay the way an autograft procedure will.
Bone Tissue for Surgical Use
If a patient gets an allograft procedure done, then that bone tissue had to come from somewhere else. In some cases, when a hospital patient expires and they have already agreed to donate their tissues, their bone tissues in particular may be gathered for allograft purposes (provided the family agrees). The donated bone tissue is placed in freezers for preservation, while the hospital’s medical staff will review the patient’s medical history and blood cultures before using that bone tissue for live patients. And as with any other tissue, donated bone tissue will be tracked, both in terms of who it came from and whose body it is surgically implanted into.