Dr. Stephen Schendel
Plastic, Maxillofacial and Sleep Surgery

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Distraction Osteogenesis

Distraction Osteogenesis in Palo Alto, CA

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Distraction osteogenesis is a surgical procedure that corrects jaw and craniofacial deformities where the bone in the jaw region requires lengthening. This procedure is used in children with cleft palates, in adolescents whose upper or lower jaw did not grow properly, and in trauma victims who experience serious jaw injury. Distraction osteogenesis has been around for decades in use on other parts of the body. Modern maxillofacial surgeons have perfected the procedure so that outcomes on the face are safe and predictable. Menlo Park maxillofacial and plastic surgeon, Dr. Stephen Schendel, is a skilled expert in this procedure and has developed specific methods to produce excellent results for patients. 

Surgical Technique

Distraction osteogenesis is a surgery that is tailored per patient. Many times, the patients are children and so the procedure is structured accordingly. During this procedure, a break (osteotomy) is made to the abnormal bone and a special device (known as a distractor) is attached to both ends of the bone. This attachment is adjusted routinely over the course of weeks in order to stretch the osteotomy with the goal that new tissue fills it. This regenerated tissue heals and turns in to new bone, essentially creating a longer bone from a shorter one. Dr. Schendel will use distraction osteogenesis in conjunction with a LeFort osteotomy for the upper jaw, as well as during lower jaw surgery.

During/After Surgery

Distraction osteogenesis is performed as an outpatient surgery in our accredited surgical facility. Patients undergoing this procedure will require general anesthesia. The procedure takes anywhere between 2-3 hours. The surgical techniques used during distraction osteogenesis have advanced greatly, which allow this surgery to be considered less invasive, which means that there is usually less swelling and pain involved during the recovery phase. Everything is done inside the mouth, thus there are not any scars associated with this procedure.

Expected Cost

The cost for distraction osteogenesis will vary. In some cases, it will be combined with another jaw procedure. The technique itself starts at around $6,000 and increases (up to $12,000) depending on the severity of the condition being treated. In some cases, insurance may cover a portion of the procedure. During your initial consultation, our team of insurance coordinators will confirm if insurance benefits can apply to your specific procedure.

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Average Cost  
$6,000 - $12,000
Recovery Time  
1 Week
Average Procedure Time  
2-3 Hours
Procedure Recovery Location  
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Distraction Osteogenesis FAQs

How Invasive?

Distraction osteogenesis is a procedure that refers to a slow movement (distraction) of two bony segments. The entire procedure takes place inside the mouth and is less invasive than other procedures of this nature (bone lengthening). Patients go home the same day and turn the distractor slowly in order to produce the desired length of space for new bone growth. There is no scarring associated with this surgery since it all takes place internally.

Is It Painful?

During the procedure itself, there is no pain because patients will be under general anesthesia. Postoperatively, we will prescribe appropriate painkiller medications to help keep patients comfortable in the immediate days that follow surgery. The distraction device to lengthen the space between the two bone segments is a slow process. Most patients feel just a little discomfort during the distraction movement. Most compare it to the feeling of when you get your braces tightened. 

Pros and Cons?

One benefit with distraction osteogenesis is that bone grafting is not necessary. While it does take time for new bone to fill in the gap, there is only one surgical site. Just like having braces, one disadvantage is that patients must return frequently so that the surgical site can be assessed and monitored so that the surgeon can ensure the device is doing its job. 

Best Age?

In general, the younger the patient, the shorter the distraction period. Adults will require a longer period of distraction and consultation because as a person ages, the regenerative process slows down. With that said, distraction osteogenesis is a procedure that has been proven effective for individuals of all ages.

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*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.