Purpose: Timing of bone grafting for maxillary alveolar clefts is not standardized. Secondary bone grafting is often performed; however, consensus does not exist regarding use of chronologic versus dental age to guide treatment. Several authors suggest an early chronologic age is associated with greater success. Available literature was systematically reviewed for evidence for optimal timing for grafting maxillary alveolar clefts.
Methods: PubMed, MEDLINE, and Cochrane Central Registrar of Controlled Trials databases were queried for manuscripts pertaining to maxillary alveolar cleft bone grafting. Inclusion criteria included manuscripts with level of evidence 4 or greater. Studies not using bone graft, lacking postoperative follow up, and clinical reports were excluded. Seventeen articles met criteria.
Results: Nine manuscripts recommended grafting based on dental age prior to eruption of the permanent canines, while 8 recommended grafting between ages 7 to 12. The most commonly reported complication was wound dehiscence, followed by graft-site infection. Ten studies used perioperative treatment protocols, 8 of which included preoperative and/or postoperative orthodontia for maxillary expansion. Correlation between chronologic age and success was not significant, but trended towards greater success with increasing age.
Conclusion: Success of secondary grafting is high, but significant variability exists in the timing of grafting. Evidence is lacking to support specific chronologic age; rather, perioperative protocols, systematic surgical technique, and a multidisciplinary discussion are likely more substantial in achieving success, and may be confounders in studies where an early age at grafting appears associated with success. The timing of bone grafting for maxillary alveolar clefts would benefit from a prospective randomized study.