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What is a Bone Implant?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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A bone implant or bone graft is a medical procedure in which a damaged or missing piece of bone is replaced with a graft. If the graft takes successfully, there is a good chance that the area will heal well, allowing the patient to use the bone as he or she normally would. One of the most common reasons for a bone graft is the placement of a dental implant, since additional bone support in the jaw is required for dental implants, and bone implants may also be used to repair chipped, broken, or severely damaged bones.

In an autologous bone implant, bone is taken from somewhere else in the patient's body. The femur is often a good source for donor bone for an autologous bone implant. Allopathic implants involve the use of bone from another donor, and it is also possible to use bone implants from animal bone or synthetic sources such as ceramic. Some implants involve the insertion of a matrix which is designed to serve as a base for growing bone, with the goal of encouraging the body to repair the problem on its own. The type of implant used varies on the patient and his or her condition. Autologous implants are considered ideal, because the risk of rejection is very low.

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The bone implant procedure starts with anesthetization of the patient and preparation of the area. It may be necessary to shave away healthy bone in order to create an ideal surface for implantation. Depending on the site of the implant, pins or a specialized surgical cement may be used to attach the bone before the wound is closed and the patient is brought out of anesthesia.

If the bone implant heals successfully, x-rays of the site taken at follow up appointments in the weeks after the surgery will clearly reveal knitting around the implant, showing that the bones of the body are connecting with the implant. If the implant is rejected, a clear line of demarcation between the bone in the body and the implant will be seen, and an infection may develop as well. In these situations, the implant will need to be removed and replaced.

This procedure usually requires the supervision of an orthopedic surgeon, a surgeon who specializes in conditions relating to the musculoskeletal system. He or she may work with a dentist in the case of a dental implant, to ensure that the bone implant will be sufficient for a dental implant. Patients should discuss the potential risks and complications of bone grafts with their surgeons, and they should also ask about the length of recovery time to expect for particular bone grafts, and whether or not they will need to take immunosuppressive medications and other drugs to prepare for the implant.

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