European Spine Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1331–1337 | Cite as

RhBMP-2 use in lumbar fusion surgery is associated with transient immediate post-operative leg pain

  • Fiachra E. RowanEmail author
  • Natasha O’Malley
  • Ashley Poynton
Original Article



Supra-physiological rhBMP loads during spinal fusion may trigger local inflammation and post-operative radiculitis. MRI is an effective tool to detect nerve root compression in severe post-operative leg pain. The aim of this study was to determine if recombinant bone morphogenic protein 2 (rhBMP-2) is associated with immediate post-operative leg pain without evidence of root compression using MRI.


All patients undergoing posterolateral and posterior interbody lumbar spinal fusions with rhBMP-2 between July 2007 and January 2009 at a single surgeon practice were retrospectively reviewed for incidence of severe immediate post-operative leg pain. Patients that presented with immediate post-operative leg pain were interviewed and Oswestry Disability Indices calculated.


Sixty-four rhBMP-2 treated patients and 40 controls were included. Pre-operative demographics and diagnoses were similar and inter-body cages were used equally. Immediate post-operative leg pain incidence was 25 and 12.5% in the rhBMP-2 and non-rhBMP-2 groups, respectively. 17.2% of the patients treated with rhBMP-2 had immediate post-operative leg pain without evidence of nerve root compression on MRI versus 7.5% of the patients treated without rhBMP-2. At follow-up, leg pain incidence was 11.6 and 7.6% in rhBMP-2 and non-rhBMP-2 groups, respectively. There was no difference in Oswestry Disability Indices between groups (36.5 ± 31.2 vs. 23.0 ± 25.5).


RhBMP-2 associated radiculitis presenting as immediate post-operative leg pain without MRI evidence of neuronal compression occurs in 17% of the patients with rhBMP-2 assisted fusion. Patients should be pre-operatively counselled regarding immediate post-operative leg pain with rhBMP-2.

Level of evidence



Spinal fusion rhBMP-2 Leg pain 


Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest in the production or publication of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fiachra E. Rowan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Natasha O’Malley
    • 2
  • Ashley Poynton
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedics and Spinal SurgeryMater Private HospitalDublin 7Ireland
  2. 2.Department of Orthopaedics and Spinal SurgeryCappagh National Orthopaedic HospitalDublin 11Ireland

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