Neuroforaminal chondrocyte metaplasia and clustering associated with recombinant bone morphogenetic protein-2 usage in transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion

Thomas J. Christensen, Prokopis Annis, Justin B. Hohl, Alpesh A. Patel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background context Recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2) is commonly used to augment posterior and interbody spinal fusion techniques and has many reported side effects. Neuroforaminal heterotopic ossification (HO) is a known cause of postoperative leg pain, but the pathohistologic composition of this material is not well understood. Purpose The purpose of this article was to report the histologic composition of a case of HO and lumbar radiculopathy after transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion with rhBMP-2. Study design/setting This is a case report. Patient sample This is a single patient case report. Outcome measures The outcomes considered were physician-recorded clinical, physiological, and functional measures. Methods A retrospective review of a single patient was performed. Clinical, radiographic, and pathologic specimens were reviewed and are reported. Results A 69-year-old woman presented with low back pain and right leg radicular pain associated with L4-L5 stenosis and a recurrent facet cyst. After attempted nonsurgical care, she underwent an L4-L5 revision decompression with interbody and posterolateral fusions including off-label rhBMP-2. Postoperatively, her symptoms resolved for approximately 7 months but then returned in association with right L4-L5 foraminal HO. The ectopic tissue was notably larger than suggested by preoperative computed tomographic scan. It was decompressed, which then improved her symptoms. Histologic examination of the specimen revealed three discrete tissue types: a nonspecific fibrovascular stroma; immature osteoid and woven bone; and chondrocyte metaplasia with chondrocyte clustering. Conclusions Neuroforaminal HO formation is a reported side effect associated with the off-label use of rhBMP-2 for posterior lumbar interbody fusion. The mechanism of formation and the composition of this material are not well understood but may involve a chondrocyte differentiation pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e23-e28
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014


  • BMP-2
  • Chondrocyte metaplasia
  • Complication
  • Heterotopic bone
  • Radiculopathy
  • TLIF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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