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Bone grafting options for lumbar spine surgery: a review examining clinical efficacy and complications

Kenneth Vaz, BS, Kushagra Verma, MS, Themistocles Protopsaltis, MD, Frank Schwab, MD, Baron Lonner, MD, Thomas Errico, MD

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases–Langone Medical Center, New York, NY



Iliac crest harvest has been considered the “gold standard” at producing successful arthrodesis of the lumbar spine but is also associated with many donor-site morbidities. Many alternatives have been used to avoid iliac crest harvest, including autologous bone from other donor sites, allogeneic bone, ceramics, and recombinant human bone morphogenetic proteins (rhBMPs). This review will highlight the properties and preparations of these graft types and their potential complications and reported clinical efficacy.


A Medline search was conducted via PubMed by use of the following terms in various combinations: lumbar fusion, freeze-dried allograft, fresh-frozen allograft, autograft, iliac crest, demineralized bone matrix, rhBMP-2, rhBMP-7, scoliosis, bone marrow aspirate, HEALOS, coralline hydroxyapatite, beta tricalcium phosphate, synthetic, ceramics, spinal fusion, PLF, PLIF, ALIF, and TLIF. Only articles written in English were assessed for appropriate material. Related articles were also assessed depending on the content of articles found in the original literature search.


Although iliac crest remains the gold standard, reported success with alternative approaches, especially in combination, has shown promise. Stronger evidence with limited sources of potential bias is necessary to provide a clear picture of their clinical efficacy.

lumbar fusion, Bone graft, Iliac crest
Volume 4 Issue 3