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Bone morphogenetic protein and orthopaedic surgery: Can we legitimate its off-label use?



Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) are recombinant osteoinductive proteins with their primary role being to promote bone formation. The off-label use of BMP in orthopaedic surgery has dramatically increased. However, reports of complications with BMP have emerged, and the safety of these proteins in orthopaedics is questioned. The purpose of this review was to evaluate safe situations in which BMP should be used and situations in which their use should be restricted.


We recorded all studies from PubMed database from 2002 (date of first authorisation for both BMPs) until January 2014 using “BMP” or “bone morphogenetic protein”. Then we screened and extracted all studies dealing with orthopaedic surgery. All situations in which BMP were used, even cases reports, were considered, and complications reported were then listed.


Situations in which it seems safe and efficient to use BMP are long-bone nonunions, or arthrodesis as an alternative or combined to autograft in small-bone loss. Surgeons and patients should be aware of transient aseptic wound swelling when BMP is located superficially. The use of BMP in spine surgery for intersomatic fusion is efficient but should be restricted to approaches that respect the vertebral canal to avoid neurological complications.


This review is an off-label map of BMP use in orthopaedics during the past 10 years. Our results could provide a useful tool to help decisions around when to use a BMP in a specific complex, and sometimes off-label, situation.

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Correspondence to Aurélien Courvoisier.

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The French Study Group of BMP in Orthopedic Surgery can also be reached at

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Courvoisier, A., Sailhan, F., Laffenêtre, O. et al. Bone morphogenetic protein and orthopaedic surgery: Can we legitimate its off-label use?. International Orthopaedics (SICOT) 38, 2601–2605 (2014).

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