Background: Distraction osteogenesis has been proposed as an alternative to cranial remodeling surgery for craniosynostosis, but technique descriptions and outcome analyses are limited to small case series. This review summarizes operative characteristics and outcomes of distraction osteogenesis and presents data comparing distraction osteogenesis to cranial remodeling surgery. Methods: A systematic review of the literature was undertaken. Descriptive analysis, operative technical data, outcomes, or postoperative complications of distraction osteogenesis for craniosynostosis were included. Results: A total of 1325 citations were reviewed, yielding 53 articles and 880 children who underwent distraction osteogenesis for craniosynostosis. Distraction plates were used in 754 patients (86 percent), whereas springs were used for the remaining 126 patients (14 percent). Standard and spring distraction osteogenesis was reported to successfully treat the primary condition 98 percent of the time. Suboptimal results were reported in 11 patients (1.3 percent), and minor complications were reported in 19.5 percent of cases (n = 172).Major complications were rare, occurring in 3.5 percent of cases (n = 31), and included two reported deaths. Absolute operative times and blood loss were marginally greater for cranial remodeling surgery cases, but the differences were not statistically significant. Conclusions: Distraction osteogenesis is an effective cranial vault remodeling technique for treating craniosynostosis. No statistical differences were found with respect to operative time, blood loss, need for transfusion, or intensive care unit resources compared with cranial remodeling surgery. Outcome studies with longer follow-up periods specifically investigating cost, relapse, and reoperation rates are necessary to effectively compare this treatment modality as an alternative to cranial remodeling surgery.
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