Distraction osteogenesis for obstructive apneas in patients with congenital craniofacial malformations

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2000 Jun;105(7):2324-30. doi: 10.1097/00006534-200006000-00003.


Infants with congenital craniofacial malformations often have associated severe mandibular hypoplasia causing obstruction of the hypopharynx by retroposition of the base of the tongue into the posterior pharyngeal airway. Management depends on the severity of the airway obstruction. Most cases can be managed by prone positioning until the infant outgrows the problem at 3 to 6 months of age. In more critical cases, monitoring of oxygen saturation, temporary placement of a nasopharyngeal tube, and placement of an endotracheal tube will be useful procedures. Tracheotomy is an effective method for more severe cases, but longstanding tracheotomies result in high morbidity and occasional mortality. Mandibular distraction was performed in seven patients, ranging in age from 1 to 18 months, with critical obstructive apnea secondary to mandibular hypoplasia characterized by an apnea/hypopnea index greater than 20 apneas per hour and oxygen saturation below 80 percent. Two patients were tracheotomized previously. Mandibular lengthening, from 16 to 25 mm on the left side and from 10 to 22 mm on the right, was achieved in 21 to 25 days. Improvement of airway obstruction parameters was measured on polysomnograms and lateral cephalograms. Mandibular lengthening by gradual distraction is a successful method for young patients with severe mandibular hypoplasia causing critical obstructive apneas. Avoidance of tracheotomy or early decannulation in previously tracheotomized patients is a great advantage for patients with congenital craniofacial malformation.

MeSH terms

  • Apnea / etiology*
  • Apnea / surgery*
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / complications*
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mandible / abnormalities*
  • Mandible / surgery*
  • Osteogenesis, Distraction*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome