Stresses at the cranial base induced by rapid maxillary expansion

Angle Orthod. 2006 Jul;76(4):543-50. doi: 10.1043/0003-3219(2006)076[0543:SATCBI]2.0.CO;2.


Objective: An analysis of the distribution of stresses at the juvenile and adult cranial base after implementation of a rapid palatal suture expansion was the goal of this study. Of particular interest were stresses occurring near the cranial foramina containing vulnerable structures.

Materials and methods: The stresses were simulated and analyzed using a finite elements model of the human cranial base. The model consisted of several skull bones (sphenoid, frontal bone, occipital bone, and the two temporal bones) with a total of 41,556 finite elements. To illustrate the differences between reactions in the juvenile and the adult, the differing bone elasticity was depicted as variations in the modulus of elasticity.

Results: At the juvenile cranial base only moderate stresses occurred during rapid palatal suture expansion, apparently precluding the likelihood of any serious complications in the area of the foramina. The situation in the adult, however, was different. Because of the reduced elasticity of the bony structures, considerable stress already occurred on light bending of the pterygoid process, especially in the area of the round foramen, the oval foramen, and the superior orbital fissure, all of which might lead to microfractures with injury of nervous and vascular structures.

Conclusions: The lower the bone elasticity on carrying out a rapid palatal suture expansion, the more important safety measures are for protecting the cranial base. For this reason the pterygomaxillary connection should be severed on both sides in adults when carrying out a surgically assisted palatal suture expansion.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cranial Sutures / physiology
  • Elasticity
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Frontal Bone / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Occipital Bone / physiology
  • Orbit / physiology
  • Palatal Expansion Technique*
  • Palate / physiology
  • Skull Base / physiology*
  • Sphenoid Bone / physiology
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Temporal Bone / physiology