Mandibular distraction in neonates: a strategy to avoid tracheostomy

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2002 Mar;109(3):896-904; discussion 905-6. doi: 10.1097/00006534-200203000-00011.


Over the past 5 years, the authors developed an application of mandibular distraction osteogenesis to eliminate existing tracheostomy. That experience led the authors to attempt mandibular distraction osteogenesis in neonates as an alternative before tracheostomy. Success with this approach using supporting objective airway measurements has been reported previously. This report includes six neonates diagnosed with Pierre Robin sequence. Of the six, five neonates ranging in age from 6 to 26 days (mean, 14.5 days) were treated by the authors with mandibular distraction over a 22-month period. The sixth neonate was treated with tracheostomy, because of other airway abnormalities. Findings included retrognathia, glossoptosis, incomplete cleft palate, and airway obstruction in each patient. Birth weights ranged from 2.8 to 3.2 kg. All patients were unable to control their airway during feeding, as evidenced by repeated episodes of choking and obstruction. Resting oxygen saturations were in the 70 to 80 percent range in all patients, with further deterioration during attempted feeding. Bronchoscopy was performed in all patients under anesthesia before distraction. Recurrent near-complete and intermittent complete airway obstruction were present in all patients at the level of the tongue base. There was a consensus by a pediatric intensivist, a pediatric anesthesiologist, and a pediatric otolaryngologist in all cases. Each patient met all criteria requiring ventilation for life support. Tracheostomy would be required if mandibular distraction osteogenesis was not performed, or if it failed. Patients with other airway abnormalities were not considered for treatment. Maxillomandibular disharmony measured at the midline ranged from 8 to 15 mm (mean, 11.2 mm). Active distraction was performed at the rate of 1 to 2 mm a day, with a consolidation period of 4 weeks. Total time of treatment was less than 6 weeks in all cases. All patients were extubated by the completion of active distraction. Distraction distance ranged from 8 to 15 mm (mean, 12.4 mm). All patients were discharged to home on apnea monitors, the use of which was discontinued after 90 days with no further apneic events. Weight gains met or exceeded the average 500 g a month after distraction. Bronchoscopy at the time of distractor removal showed correction of airway obstruction at the tongue base. Radiographs showed bilateral ossification of the distraction sites. Tracheostomy was avoided in all cases selected for treatment by distraction. Patient follow-up range was 9 to 22 months. In selected Pierre Robin sequence patients with tongue base airway obstruction, mandibular distraction osteogenesis can successfully avoid the need for and the associated mortality and morbidity of indwelling tracheostomy.

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Airway Obstruction / surgery*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mandible / surgery*
  • Osteogenesis, Distraction*
  • Tracheostomy