Recovery of mandibular motion after closed and open treatment of unilateral mandibular condylar process fractures

Gaylord S. Throckmorton, Edward Ellis

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The purpose of this study was to determine the rate of recovery of mandibular motion in patients treated for fractures of the mandibular condylar process. One hundred and thirty-six patients (111 men, 25 women), 74 treated by closed and 62 by open methods, were included. They underwent testing of mandibular and condyle mobility at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1, 2, and 3 years post surgery. Their ranges of motion were compared to those of 52 controls (26 men and 26 women). A jaw-tracking device was used to assess mandibular motion. Multilevel statistical models were used to assess differences between groups, and to estimate rate of recovery in the fracture patients. In general, patients with unilateral fractures of the condylar process had maximum excursions that returned to normal values within 3 years after fracture, regardless of treatment. Patients treated open exhibited a faster rate of improvement in maximum interincisal opening than patients treated closed (0.43 mm/month vs 0.15 mm/month, respectively), but part of the difference was due to a significantly smaller opening after 6 weeks for the patients treated open (38 mm vs 42 mm, respectively). Patients treated open also exhibited a faster rate of improvement in maximum excursion toward the fracture side than patients treated closed (0.10 mm/month vs 0.04 mm/month, respectively). Based upon this study, patients with unilateral fractures of the condylar process, who are treated closed and not put into maxillomandibular fixation but are instructed in physical therapy, can be expected to achieve normal maximum excursions within 3 years after treatment. Patients treated open will have reduced maximum opening initially, but may reach normal levels of opening sooner than patients treated without surgery. Patients treated without surgery may have smaller than normal excursion toward the non-fracture side for at least 3 years after fracture, especially if their fracture was at or above the condylar neck. Improvement rates for other maximum excursions are similar for patients treated with or without surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-427
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2000



  • Mandibular condylar fracture
  • Mandibular motion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Surgery

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