The effect of iliac crest autograft on the outcome of fusion in the setting of degenerative spondylolisthesis: a subgroup analysis of the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT)

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012 Sep 19;94(18):1685-92. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00952.


Background: There is considerable controversy about the long-term morbidity associated with the use of posterior autologous iliac crest bone graft for lumbar spine fusion procedures compared with the use of bone-graft substitutes. The hypothesis of this study was that there is no long-term difference in outcome for patients who had posterior lumbar fusion with or without iliac crest autograft.

Methods: The study population includes patients enrolled in the degenerative spondylolisthesis cohort of the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial who underwent lumbar spinal fusion. Patients were divided according to whether they had or had not received posterior autologous iliac crest bone graft.

Results: There were 108 patients who had fusion with iliac crest autograft and 246 who had fusion without iliac crest autograft. There were no baseline differences between groups in demographic characteristics, comorbidities, or baseline clinical scores. At baseline, the group that received iliac crest bone graft had an increased percentage of patients who had multilevel fusions (32% versus 21%; p=0.033) and L5-S1 surgery (37% versus 26%; p=0.031) compared with the group without iliac crest autograft. Operative time was higher in the iliac crest bone-graft group (233.4 versus 200.9 minutes; p<0.001), and there was a trend toward increased blood loss (686.9 versus 582.3; p=0.057). There were no significant differences in postoperative complications, including infection or reoperation rates, between the groups. On the basis of the numbers available, no significant differences were detected between the groups treated with or without iliac crest bone graft with regard to the scores on Short Form-36, Oswestry Disability Index, Stenosis Bothersomeness Index, and Low Back Pain Bothersomeness Scale or the percent of patient satisfaction with symptoms averaged over the study period.

Conclusions: The outcome scores associated with the use of posterior iliac crest bone graft for lumbar spinal fusion were not significantly lower than those after fusion without iliac crest autograft. Conversely, iliac crest bone-grafting was not associated with an increase in the complication rates or rates of reoperation. On the basis of these results, surgeons may choose to use iliac crest bone graft on a case-by-case basis for lumbar spinal fusion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Bone Transplantation / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Ilium / surgery
  • Ilium / transplantation*
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pain Measurement
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recovery of Function
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*
  • Spondylolisthesis / diagnosis
  • Spondylolisthesis / surgery*
  • Transplantation, Autologous
  • Treatment Outcome