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Spine J. 2018 Mar;18(3):439-446. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2017.08.230. Epub 2017 Aug 18.

Comparison of transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion outcomes in patients receiving rhBMP-2 versus autograft.

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Department of Orthopedics-Spine Surgery, Washington University in Saint Louis, Saint Louis, MO, USA.
BJC Institute of Health, Washington University's Brown School of Social Work, 425 S. Euclid Ave, Suite 5505, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.
Department of Orthopedics-Spine Surgery, Washington University in Saint Louis, Saint Louis, MO, USA. Electronic address:



Recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein 2 (rhBMP-2) plays a pivotal role in complex spine surgery. Despite its limited approval, the off-label use of rhBMP-2 is prevalent, particularly in transforaminal lumbar interbody fusions (TLIFs).


To determine the effectiveness and safety of rhBMP-2 use in TLIF procedures versus autograft.


Retrospective cohort study.


Patients older than 18 years undergoing spine surgery for lumbar degenerative spine disease at a single academic institution.


Clinical outcome was determined according to patient records. Radiographic outcome was determined according to plain X-rays and computed tomography (CT).


A retrospective study from 1997 to 2014 was conducted on 191 adults undergoing anterior-posterior instrumented spinal fusion with TLIF at a single academic institution. Patient data were gathered from operative notes, follow-up clinic notes, and imaging studies to determine complications and fusion rates. One hundred eighty-seven patients fit the criteria, which included patients with a minimum of one TLIF, and had a minimum 2-year radiographic and clinical follow-up. Patients were further classified into a BMP group (n=83) or non-BMP group (n=104). Three logistic regression models were run using rhBMP-2 exposure as the independent variable. The respective outcome variables were TLIF-related complications (radiculitis, seroma, osteolysis, and ectopic bone), surgical complications, and all complications.


Bone morphogenetic protein (n=83) and non-BMP (n=104) groups had similar baseline demographics (sex, diabetes, pre-existing cancer). On average, the BMP and non-BMP groups were similarly aged (51.9 vs. 47.9 years, p>.05), but the BMP group had a shorter follow-up time (3.03 vs. 4.06 years; p<.001) and fewer smokers (8 vs. 21 patients; p<.048). The fusion rate for the BMP and non-BMP groups was 92.7% and 92.3%, respectively. The pseudoarthrosis rate was 7.5% (14 of 187 patients). Radiculitis was observed in seven patients in the BMP group (8.4%) and two patients in the non-BMP group (1.9%). Seroma was observed in two patients in the BMP group (2.4%) and none in the non-BMP group. No deep infections were observed in the BMP group, and in one patient in the non-BMP group (0.96%). Although patients exposed to BMP were at a significantlygreater risk of developing radiculitis and seroma (odds ratio [OR]=4.53, confidence interval [CI]=1.42-14.5), BMP exposure was not a significant predictor of surgical complications (OR=0.32, CI=0.10-1.00) or overall complications (OR=1.11, CI=0.53-2.34). The outcome of TLIF-related complications was too rare and the confidence interval too wide for practical significance of the first model.


Evidence supports the hypothesis that off-label use of rhBMP-2 in TLIF procedures is relatively effective for achieving bone fusion at rates similar to patients receiving autograft. Patients exhibited similar complication rates between the two groups, with the BMP group exhibiting slightly higher rates of radiculitis and seroma.


BMP; Bone morphogenetic protein; Spine surgery; TLIF; Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion; rhBMP-2

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