Children with craniofacial anomalies often have compromise of the upper airway, a condition with potential for morbidity and mortality. In children with microretrognathia, the diminutive size and retruded position of the mandible reduces the size of the oropharynx, thereby predisposing to glossoptosis and airway obstruction. A1-though several authors have reported successful use of mandibular distraction osteogenesis to alleviate this type of upper airway obstruction, the physiologic relationship between changes in mandibular shape, size, and position and upper airway dynamics remains undefined. The purpose of this study was to develop methodologies to quantitatively evaluate upper airway dynamics in children with micrognathia both before and after mandibular distraction osteogenesis. The patient population consisted of four children with micrognathia who had successfully undergone upper airway stabilization by bilateral mandibular distraction osteogenesis. The data used were digitally archived computed tomographic scan data from high-resolution, thin-slice head computed tomographic scans obtained before and after mandibular distraction. Upper airway evaluation was performed in two ways: static and dynamic. Static analysis consisted of computer quantification of predistraction and postdistraction mandibular and upper airway volumes using Analyze imaging software. Dynamic analysis consisted of fabrication of rigid stereolithographic hollow cast models of the upper airway produced from computed tomographic scan data. Models were used for characterization of upper airway resistance and flow patterns as related to respiration. After distraction osteogenesis, mandibular total volume increased 32, 32, 18, and 25 percent (mean, 27 percent) and upper airway volume increased by 20, 31, 23, and 71 percent (mean, 37 percent). A significant decrease in flow resistance, both inspiratory and expiratory, was observed in the patient with the greatest upper airway volume increase (71 percent) after distraction. After distraction, the inspiratory resistance was diminished by 51 percent and the expiratory resistance diminished by 85 percent. However, the three patients with more modest upper airway volume increases of 20 to 31 percent demonstrated no statistically significant change in flow resistance after distraction. Results of this study support the conclusion that distraction osteogenesis of the micrognathic mandible increases the volume of the upper airway, roughly paralleling the increase in mandibular volume. In the biomechanical airway model studied, upper airway volume expansion has been shown to be able to decrease the flow resistance over the length of the airway, presumably secondary to an increase in the average cross-sectional area. The artificial rigidity of the stereolithographic "airway" compared with the elasticity of the human upper airway may account for the insensitivity of this model to smaller but clinically significant airway changes.
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