Coral and Cattle Part of Foot and Ankle Surgeons' Toolkit
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Media contact: Melissa Matusek
(773) 693-9300, ext. 1306
Look inside a foot and ankle surgeon’s operating room these days and you’re just as likely to find marine coral and cattle collagen as you are scalpels and sutures. These bone substitutes are increasingly being used to treat patients with difficult-to-heal bones.
Bone substitutes provide a frame on which new bone can grow. Foot and ankle surgeons use natural and synthetic substances to fill gaps in bones caused by serious or traumatic fractures, arthritis, tumors, infected bone, and previous fractures that failed to heal correctly.
"Using a bone substitute is similar to caulking a hole or crevice in your house," says Gary P. Jolly, DPM, FACFAS, a foot and ankle surgeon from Hartford, Conn.
There are several types of bone substitutes. Some species of marine coral can be processed as bone substitutes because they are made of calcium phosphate, a primary component in human bone, and will not be rejected by the immune system. Man-made bone substitutes may appear as pellets or putty, and can be molded or injected. Other techniques allow foot and ankle surgeons to harvest bone marrow and trigger marrow stem cells to grow new bone.
Another animal-derived bone substitute used in foot and ankle surgery is bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). When a bone is broken or injured, the body produces this growth factor to stimulate healing. Since it’s not species-specific, BMP can be extracted from the bones of cattle. This bovine collagen can then be implanted in feet or ankles to help stimulate and accelerate bone growth.
Bone substitutes are an alternative to bone grafts and provide several advantages over them, including reduced recovery time, lower cost and less risk of infections and complications.
For reliable information on foot and ankle conditions, or to locate a foot and ankle surgeon near you, go to the ACFAS consumer Web site FootHealthFacts.org.