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How Long Does It Take to Recover From Bone Grafting?
For patients with severe skeletal damage, bone grafting can help regrow or restore the affected bones for necessary structure and stability. This damage can come from a variety of sources, including traumatic injury or deterioration due to disease or infection. In some instances, a bone graft may be recommended to help assist in the healing process during a joint replacement or the surgical installation of rods or plates.
The process of bone grafting
During a bone grafting procedure, the surgeon will make the necessary incision to install a piece of supplemental bone. It is typically attached to the surrounding joints, bones and tissues as needed. The bone is shaped based on the size and location of the damage and secured with pins, wires or screws. The bone graft can come from one of a few sources:
- Autograft: The bone is harvested from another location inside the patient's body, such as the wrist, pelvis or ribs. This process requires multiple surgeries but may be appropriate for instances where regeneration is needed.
- Allograft: The bone is harvested from a cadaver or donor. In these instances, no living marrow is present, so the chances of the body rejecting the graft are low.
- Synthetic bone graft: A synthetic bone is created for the specific location.
Once the installation is complete, the incision is stitched closed and bandaged for healing.
Recovering from bone grafting surgery
The amount of time required to fully recover from a bone graft varies, depending on the patient and the extent of the damage being repaired. Smaller surgeries may only require a few weeks of recovery, while more complicated situations could require up to a year of rehabilitation and follow-up care. A consulting physician or surgeon can help provide a clearer picture of the anticipated recovery time.
Immediately after surgery, most patients will experience pain and swelling but should receive medications to help with these issues. It is important to ice the area and to keep it elevated for the first few days after surgery to reduce swelling and prevent the formation of blood clots. In general, mobility should be limited during the first few weeks of recovery.
Most physicians will schedule a series of follow-up appointments to monitor the healing process. In addition to a physical examination, X-rays, CT scans and MRIs may be ordered to evaluate internal healing and to check for possible infection or rejection. It is critical to be on the lookout for signs of infection, including new bleeding, increased pain, redness, swelling or fever. Physical therapy may be needed to help rehabilitate the affected area. Patients should not smoke and should follow a healthy diet to promote a speedier recovery.
Bone grafting can help restore the function of severely damaged bones. Depending on the situation, a physician may recommend an autograft, an allograft, or a synthetic bone graft. With successful surgery and proper follow-up care, many patients can experience complete healing and renewed mobility.
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