A comparison of two types of free bone grafts as transport discs in segmental distraction for reconstruction of calvarial bone defects: an experimental study

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IntroductionSeveral investigations over the past few years have shown that the importance of preserving the blood supply of the transport disc during segmental distraction has been overestimated. It was clearly demonstrated that distraction osteogenesis by local bone transportation could be achieved even with free bone grafts. So far, there have been no systematic investigations into how different types of free bone grafts vary in their function and suitability as transport discs in segmental craniofacial distraction. The aim of this study was to develop criteria to aid the clinician in selecting the most suitable free bone graft for distraction purposes.Materials and methodsUnder general anesthesia, calvarial defects measuring 6×5 cm were created in 12 adult black head sheep in order to reconstruct them by segmental distraction using two different types of bone grafts as transport discs. Group 1 (n=6) received autotopical membranous bone of the calvarium as the transport segment, while group 2 (n=6) received heterotopical enchondral material from the iliac crest. Distraction was started postoperatively after 5 days at 0.6 mm/day and continued for 7 weeks. After a further 6 weeks of consolidation, the animals were killed and specimens examined macroscopically, radiographically and histologically.ResultsThe significantly better quality of bone regenerates of group 1 was clearly influenced by the significantly better stability of the transport disc's connection to the distraction device, the calvaria grafts showing better volume stability and better mechanical resistance during transport than the iliac bone. The influence of both types of bone grafts on the macro- and microstructure of the newly formed bone was clearly evident. The mineralization density of group 2 regenerates was significantly lower than that of group 1 specimens.ConclusionHigh mechanical stability of the bone graft is a very important point to consider when selecting a free graft for use as transport disc in local bone transport, especially if transport is necessary over long distances.

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