, Volume 472, Issue 2, pp 732-739
Date: 29 Aug 2013

Recombinant Human BMP-2 Increases the Incidence and Rate of Healing in Complex Ankle Arthrodesis

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Although its FDA-approved applications are limited, the pro-osteogenic benefits of recombinant human BMP-2 (rhBMP-2) administration have been shown in off-label surgical applications. However, the effects of rhBMP-2 on ankle fusions are insufficiently addressed in the literature, which fails to include a case-control study of adequate sample size to evaluate the efficacy of rhBMP-2 treatment.


In this study we asked whether rhBMP-2 treatment (1) would increase the rate of successful ankle fusion in complex patients (patients with comorbidities associated with poor surgical healing) compared with a control group of patients undergoing ankle fusion who did not receive rhBMP-2; (2) would reduce total time wearing a frame when compared with the control group; (3) would result in a difference in the percentage of bone bridging between the group treated with rhBMP-2 and the control group, as determined by CT scans 3 months after surgery; and (4) would encounter an equal rate of complications different from untreated patients.


A retrospective chart study was performed on 82 patients who, because of a host of comorbidities associated with poor healing, required a complex ankle arthrodesis with the Ilizarov technique. The first 40 patients did not receive rhBMP-2, whereas the subsequent 42 patients received intraoperative rhBMP-2. Time wearing the frame was determined by chart review; decision to remove the frame was made by the surgeon based on quantitative bone bridging measured using a CT scan taken 3 months after fusion.


Patients treated with rhBMP-2 were more likely to obtain fusion after the initial surgery (93% versus 53%, p < 0.001; OR, 11.76; 95% CI, 3.12–44.41), spent less total time wearing the frame (124 versus 161 days, p < 0.01), and showed more bone bridging on CT scans (48% versus 32%, p < 0.05). All patients with greater than 30% bone bridging observed on CT scans 3 months postoperatively achieved successful union without further intervention.


Our findings suggest that rhBMP-2 is a beneficial adjunct for selected groups of patients undergoing complex ankle arthrodesis. CT is a promising modality in the assessment of bone healing in ankle fusion. A proper randomized controlled trial remains necessary to fully describe the efficacy of rhBMP-2 in accelerating bone healing.

Level of Evidence

Level III, therapeutic study. See the Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Each author certifies that he or she, or a member of his or her immediate family, has no funding or commercial associations (eg, consultancies, stock ownership, equity interest, patent/licensing arrangements, etc) that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted article.
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Each author certifies that his or her institution approved the human protocol for this investigation, that all investigations were conducted in conformity with ethical principles of research, and that informed consent for participation in the study was obtained.
This work was performed at the Division of Limb Lengthening and Complex Reconstruction, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, USA.