"We think this new process can be a huge advantage for patients and a good tool for reconstructive surgeons," says Daniel Price, M.D., Mayo Clinic ear, nose and throat surgery resident and lead study investigator. "We're excited about it. It will not completely replace the current mandible reconstruction method -- transfer of bone -- but down the road, I think that this method of reconstruction will be done regularly in patients with cancer involving the mandible."
Patients who might be candidates for the new reconstructive and treatment procedure have oral cancer involving part of the mandible. To completely remove the tumor surgically, surgeons have to remove part of the mandible. Without reconstructive surgery, patients would have difficulty eating and speaking, and would develop a significant facial deformity, says Eric Moore, M.D., Mayo Clinic ear, nose and throat surgeon and senior study investigator.
The new method, which the investigators tested in rabbits, used distraction osteogenesis after tumor removal surgery to restore the missing portion of a patient's jaw. With distraction osteogenesis, the surgeon made a cut at one of the remaining ends of the patient's jawbone. As the break healed, the first phase of growth, soft tissue, appeared. The surgeon then stretched the pliable soft tissue under the tension of a device to fill in the gap in the patient's jaw. Within 24 hours of completing the stretching process, physicians started administering radiation therapy to the mandible to decrease the likelihood of cancer recurrence. As the soft tissue healed, it harde
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