Graft sources for lumbar fusion include synthetic materials, donor grafts, and autologous bone such as the iliac crest. Considering the data indicating that autologous bone grafts generate the best results for fusion, the next logical step is to seek alternative donor sites in an attempt to reduce the complications associated with these procedures. To the authors' knowledge, autologous scapula has not been explored as a potential source for posterior lumbar fusion graft material. Therefore, the following study was performed to verify the utility of this bone in these procedures.
Six adult cadavers (mean age 71 years), four formalin-fixed and two fresh specimens, were used in this study. With the cadaver in the prone position, an incision was made over the spine of the scapula. Soft tissues were stripped from the middle of this region of the scapula, and bone segments were removed with a bone saw and used for a posterior lumbar fusion procedure.
A mean length of 11.5 cm was measured for the spine of the scapula and the mean thicknesses of this bone at its medial part, segment just medial to the spinoglenoid notch, and acromion were 1 cm, 2.2 cm, and 2.5 cm, respectively. No obvious injury to surrounding vessels or nerves was found using this procedure, and adequate fusion was achieved with it.
Following clinical testing, such a bone substitute as autologous scapular spine might be a reasonable alternative to iliac crest grafts for use in posterior lumbar fusion procedures.