Effect of calvarial burring on resorption of onlay cranial bone graft

J Craniofac Surg. 2012 Sep;23(5):1495-8. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0b013e31824e63c5.


Variable resorption occurs whenever calvarial bone graft is used for onlay cranioplasty. The recipient ectocortex may be burred to expose vessels and osteocytes to maximize healing. The purpose of this study was to determine whether abrading the recipient site improves the volume of onlay graft. The parietal bones of 17 rabbits were sectioned into split-thickness and full-thickness grafts. The right frontal cortex was abraded with a bur to punctate bleeding. Pairs of split-thickness (n = 48) or full-thickness (n = 20) grafts were onlayed to the burred right frontal bone and to the nonburred left frontal bone. Micro-computed tomography was used to determine graft volume immediately postoperatively and 16 weeks later. Histology, including tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase staining, was performed to quantify vascular channels and osteoclasts per high-power field 10 days postoperatively. Split-thickness graft volume decreased 58.0% when placed on the burred calvarial site, compared with grafts on the nonburred cortex (28.4%) (P = 0.01). Full-thickness grafts showed a similar trend: greater resorption (39.1%) when onlayed onto abraded calvaria compared with nonburred ectocortex (26.0%) (P = 0.11). Split-thickness graft orientation (cortical vs cancellous side in contact with the recipient site) did not affect resorption (P = 0.67). Onlay grafts placed on the burred recipient site had more vascular channels (11.8) and osteoclasts (5.7), compared with grafts over nonabraded cortex (3.4 and 4.2, respectively) (P < 0.05). Burring the recipient site cortex before onlay cranial bone grafting promotes resorption, possibly by increasing vascularization and osteoclastic activity. This technique cannot be recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Resorption*
  • Bone Transplantation / methods*
  • Craniotomy / methods*
  • Frontal Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Frontal Bone / surgery*
  • Parietal Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Bone / transplantation*
  • Rabbits
  • X-Ray Microtomography