I am having surgery to fix a broken bone in my wrist. My surgeon says he is going to use a bone substitute to join the bones together. Wouldn't it make more sense to use actual bone?

Some doctors might argue that, when it comes to bone, there's nothing like the original. But there are a few disadvantages to using a patient's own bone for a surgery like this. To get the bone, the doctor has to open up a second surgical site, usually the top rim of the pelvis. As with any surgery, this brings the risk of infection, pain, and injury. Surgery using the patient's bone also takes longer, since it takes time to shape the bone.

Bone cement is a possible substitute. It is strong and easy to shape.

However, a substance called hydroxyapatite (HA) has recently been used in place of bone cement. Compared to bone cement, HA is thought to bond better with human bone. A group of researchers recently used HA to stabilize breaks in the forearm bone (the radius) on the thumb side of the wrist. The results were excellent, even for older patients with osteoporosis. HA joined with surrounding bone within two to three months of surgery.

There are many good reasons to use a bone substitute. Your doctor can tell you more about why a substitute is preferable in your case.