Jaw distraction, also known as mandibular distraction, is a procedure that is usually carried out within the first several weeks of a newborn’s life. Some infants are born with a lower jaw that is undersized or recessed (called micrognathia), which results in babies having trouble eating, breathing, and even sleeping.
Jaw distraction can correct issues in the airways, alleviate difficulties with feeding, and improve psychosocial aspects by creating a more symmetrical face and jaw. The Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago is one of a select few clinics that offer this unique procedure, and we do so with the health, safety, and wellbeing of your child in mind.
Defects or issues with the jaw are evident immediately after birth. Your child’s doctor will let you know if mandibular distraction is a viable treatment option for your newborn. Traditionally, children with micrognathia or other jaw defects (craniofacial macrosomia) were treated with a tracheostomy that would remain in place for several years, but thanks to the advancements in plastic surgery, jaw distraction is a permanent solution that corrects the problem early in life.
If jaw distraction is suggested as a possible treatment option by your pediatrician, you should seek a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon. During a consultation with the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago, we will take the time to explain all aspects of the procedure, including potential risks and recovery, and provide you with an extensive overview of both functional and aesthetic details of jaw distraction.
First, a general anesthetic is administered and vital signs are monitored closely. The surgeon will make two incisions inside the mouth or on the external skin, one on each side of the jaw, and carefully separate the soft tissue from the mandible bone. A distraction device is attached to the jaw with screws; the distraction device will later be turned daily for about two weeks in order to slowly pull the ends of the jaw bones apart. By this method, the jaw is lengthened, and bone will form in the new gap between the two ends of the jaw bone during the healing process.
The distraction device remains in place for approximately twelve weeks to allow the new bone to fully form. The device is then surgically removed with another procedure at the end of treatment.
Most infants remain in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) or PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) during the entire distraction process because eating orally can be difficult while the device is in place. In some cases, patients will be allowed to go home, though parents must undergo special education to learn post-surgical care, feeding techniques, and how to adjust the distraction device.
After the distraction device is removed and the incision sites have healed, your baby should be able to eat, breathe, and sleep normally. Most infants that undergo this procedure can go on to have ordinary jaw growth and speech development.
There are always potential complications in any surgical procedure or anytime anesthesia is administered. Specific risks associated with jaw distraction may include:
- Delay in speech development
- Abnormal speech development
- Abnormal speech development
At the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago, we take every effort to minimize potential complications by using the safest and most innovative techniques. You can further reduce risk by strictly adhering to all instructions provided by your plastic surgeon, both before and after the procedure.
It is difficult to provide an approximate cost for jaw distraction because the procedure varies greatly between patients. Be sure to discuss all costs with your plastic surgeon during your consultation. Your medical insurance may cover some or all of the cost associated with jaw distraction. Contact your health insurance provider before your child undergoes the procedure.
The doctors and staff of the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago are experts in both plastic surgery procedures and pediatric care. We understand that as a new parent, the wellbeing of your child is your highest priority, which is why we make it our highest priority as well. If you have any questions or concerns about mandibular distraction, please don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule a consultation.
All surgical procedures by the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago are performed at top hospitals in Chicago and CMS or AAAASF-certified surgical centers for safety.