RIA versus iliac crest bone graft harvesting: A meta-analysis and systematic review

Injury. 2022 Feb;53(2):286-293. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2021.10.002. Epub 2021 Oct 15.


Background: Reamer-Irrigator-Aspirator (RIA) of long bones is increasingly being used as an alternative to iliac crest harvesting for bone-grafts. This meta-analysis compares both harvesting techniques with regard to donor site morbidity, healing potency and implantation site morbidity.

Methods: PubMed/Medline/Embase/CENTRAL/CINAHL were searched for both randomized clinical trials (RCT) and observational studies. Effect estimates were pooled across studies using random effects models and presented as weighted odds ratio (OR) with corresponding 95% confidence interval (95%CI).

Results: A total of 5 studies were included. RIA carries a lower risk for chronic pain (0% versus 14.2%, OR 0.08, 95% CI 0.02 - 0.35) and infection (1% versus 5.9%, OR 0.29, 95% CI 0.09- 0.9) at the donor site compared to iliac crest harvesting. Iliac crest bone-harvesting has an inherent additional risk of neuropraxia of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve and numbness of the scar which is not encountered in RIA harvesting. Risk for other reported complications such as hematoma and iatrogenic fractures appear equal in both groups. The clinical healing potential of both bone grafts, in terms of union rate (OR 1.53, 95%CI 0.62 - 3.75) at the implantation site and time-to-union (MD 0.44 months, 95%CI -1.72 - 0.83), seems equal.

Conclusion: The main difference between RIA and iliac crest bone graft harvesting is the considerable higher risk of chronic pain of the pelvic procedure. Although risk for infection was also higher for the iliac crest group, the absolute difference is relatively small. Evidence suggests an equal healing potential of the grafts themselves irrespective of harvesting method.

Keywords: Bone graft; Harvesting; Iliac crest; Meta-analysis; RIA.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Transplantation
  • Fractures, Bone*
  • Humans
  • Ilium*
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting
  • Transplantation, Autologous