Last year, I had a spinal fusion at L45. The surgeon avoided using bone harvested from my hip by mixing a bone-growth protein with bone taken from the spine. I heard on a radio report that someone else had this same procedure and ended up with a bone tumor. Is this something I need to be concerned about?
More and more adults with chronic low back pain from degenerative (often age-related) conditions of the spine are turning to spinal fusion as the final answer to their pain and disability. But no surgery is ever done without the concern for complications and problems referred to as adverse events.
The standard operating procedure for spinal fusion is to use some of the patient's own bone (taken from the pelvic bone) to help strengthen the fusion site until the body forms its own fresh bone to fill in. There are three major drawbacks to this type of autograft. One is the fact that it requires a second surgery. The second is the fact that sometimes the patient's bone quality isn't that good. And the third is the high number of patients who experience pain caused by the autograft.
That's why scientists and researchers are helping surgeons find alternative ways to boost bone growth at the fusion site. The bone-growth protein you mentioned is one of those ways. These proteins come from bone and have the ability to initiate the set of steps needed to form new bone.
Adverse effects of bone-growth proteins are very minimal. And they eliminate the need for the second often painful procedure to harvest bone from the patient's pelvis. Although these proteins do stimulate bone growth, there is no evidence that they cause bone tumors (or any other type of tumors) to develop.