The development of bone-graft substitutes potentially provides the benefits of bone grafting without the risks of autograft harvest. During the past few years, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved several different types of products. These vary considerably in composition, structural strength, osteoinductive and osteoconductive potential, and mechanisms and rates at which they are resorbed or remodeled. The products now approved for orthopaedic applications in the United States include those based on naturally occurring materials (e.g., demineralized human bone matrix, bovine collagen mineral composites, and processed coralline hydroxyapatite) as well as synthetic materials (e.g., calcium sulfate pellets, bioactive glass, and calcium phosphate cement). Materials in development include variations on available products and a new generation of biologically active materials employing growth factors. Rigorous comparison of the products is difficult, as there are no universally accepted preclinical assays and comparable clinical studies. Despite the limitations of the data now available, controlled studies and anecdotal reports suggest that use of bone-graft substitutes may result in improved treatment outcomes for patients with fractures of the distal radius.