Study design: Posterolateral spinal fusion with autologous bone marrow aspirate in addition to autograft iliac crest bone graft in a rabbit model.
Objective: To demonstrate that the addition of autologous bone marrow can have positive effects on bone formation and spinal fusion.
Summary of background data: Bone marrow has been shown to contain osteoprogenitor cells. A number of studies have demonstrated that bone formation is possible with autologous marrow injection into orthotopic sites such as that performed in femur fracture models.
Methods: A bone paucity model of posterolateral spine fusion was developed. The control animals received 0.8 g of morselized autogenous iliac crest bone graft harvested from a single iliac crest. The graft was mixed with 2 mL of clotted peripheral blood. In the experimental group, 2 mL of bone marrow aspirated from the opposite iliac crest was substituted for the peripheral blood clot. All rabbits were killed at 12 weeks, and the specimens were subjected to evaluation by posteroanterior radiography for the presence of fusion, computed tomography for bone volume, and biomechanical testing for stiffness.
Results: Successful fusion was achieved in 61% of the animals in the experimental group versus 25% in the control group (P < 0.05). The fusion mass in the experimental group had a mean volume of 919 +/- 387 mm3 versus 667 +/- 512 mm3 for the control group, as measured from computed tomography images. The results of the biomechanical testing validated the radiographic scoring system. The stiffness in specimens, graded as having a radiographic score of 4, was significantly greater than in specimens with radiographic scores of 1 and 2.
Conclusion: In cases for which an adequate quantity of autogenous bone graft is not available, addition of bone marrow may facilitate greater bone formation and successful fusion.