Imaging characteristics of bone graft materials

Francesca D. Beaman, Laura W. Bancroft, Jeffrey J. Peterson, Mark J. Kransdorf, David M. Menke, James K. Deorio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Bone graft materials are widely used in reconstructive orthopedic procedures to promote new bone formation and bone healing, provide a substrate and scaffolding for development of bone structure, and function as a means for direct antibiotic delivery. Bone graft materials include autografts, allografts, and synthetic substitutes. An autograft (from the patient's own bone) supplies both bone volume and osteogenic cells capable of new bone formation. The imaging appearance of an autograft depends on its type, composition, and age. Autografts often appear as osseous fragments at radiography. At computed tomography (CT), autografts appear similar to the adjacent cortical bone. At magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, however, autografts have a variable appearance as a consequence of the viable marrow inside them, a feature not present in other graft materials. An allograft (from cadaveric bone) has an appearance similar to that of cortical bone on radiographs and CT images. An allograft in the form of bone chips or morsels does not show those features on radiographs and CT images, but instead appears as a conglomerate with medium to high opacity and attenuation within the bone defect. In the immediate postoperative period, allografts appear hypointense on both T1- and T2-weighted MR images. Hematopoietic tissue replaces the normal fatty marrow in the later phases of graft incorporation. Synthetic bone substitutes are much more variable in imaging appearance. As the use of bone allografts and synthetic substitutes increases, familiarity with postoperative imaging features is essential for differentiation between grafts and residual or recurrent disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-388
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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