What Is a Bone Tamp?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2020
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A bone tamp is a device used in orthopedic surgery to reduce fractures and manage bone grafts. This instrument can be used inside a bone to elevate depressed areas after a fracture, assisting with the stabilization process. It can also be used to pack bone into place at a graft site, through a careful procedure intended to promote full bone growth in the area. A wide range of models is available including a range of rigid and flexible bone tamps, balloon devices, and versions with angled and textured heads.

In the case of fracture reduction, one critical use of a bone tamp can be in spinal procedures. Patients with fractured or compressed vertebrae can be at risk of spinal cord injuries. The bone tamp is inserted inside the involved vertebra and used to push the bone into place, allowing the surgeon to set it with bone cement to stabilize the fracture. With a balloon device, the surgeon inserts a tube with an inflatable balloon, carefully blows it up to push the bone back into place, and then deflates it, filling the resulting cavity with bone cement.


Similar procedures can be necessary when there are depressions at the surface of fractured or damaged bone around the sites of joints in the body. These can increase the risk of developing arthritis later, in addition to being painful for the patient. The surgeon uses the bone tamp to restore the shape of the bone, reducing the fracture so it can be cast to allow it to heal. Flexible devices provide more room for tunneling and working inside the bone, and specialized heads can be used for various applications.

Bone grafts can also require the use of a tamp. When a surgeon places graft material, it may be gently tamped into place as part of the procedure. This ensures that the graft is correctly placed and rooted, which increases the chance that it will take, eventually growing into the matrix of existing bone. A bone tamp is an ideal instrument for this purpose, and may have a special head designed to stabilize the graft while the surgeon positions it.

Tamps can also be used at harvesting sites, where the surgeon wants to carefully remove a sample of bone from a donor. Careful extraction is critical to minimize damage in cases where patients are donating their own tissue, and bone tamps can be used to control the site and prepare it for healing. In the case of cadaver donation, tissue preservation is less critical, as the donor is unlikely to need it.


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