Although various aspects of bone formation during distraction osteogenesis have been studied extensively, there are only limited experimental data concerning the influence of hyper-physiologic mandibular distraction rate on structural alterations in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) condylar cartilage. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of bilateral distraction osteogenesis of the mandibular body, at a hyper-physiologic rate and length, on the integrity of the condylar cartilage in rabbits. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Eighteen healthy adult male rabbits weighing 2 to 3 kg were assigned to 1 of 2 groups: the control group (n = 2 rabbits, 4 joints) or the study group (n = 16 rabbits, 32 joints) four rabbits (8 joints) in each subgroup according to the post-distraction period (1,2,3 or 4 weeks). In the control group, rabbits received sham surgery (Osteotomy without distraction) and then left to live for 4 weeks under the same condition of the study group then euthanized using intravenous overdose of pentobarbital sodium. In the study group, an extra oral custom-made distracter was employed to achieve bilateral mandibular hyper physiologic distraction (1.5 mm twice daily for 5 days) distraction. All animals were evaluated clinically and histomorphometrically and results analyzed by MINITABE 13.1 statistical package using ANOVA test. RESULTS: Animals underwent distraction showed obvious changes in condylar surface contour related to length of the follow up period, compared to the control; these changes seemed to be partly reversible. The most pronounced observation was the irregularities and resorption in the anterior part of the condylar cartilage and the subcondylar bone. Moreover, at the first two weeks, the area of resorption was invaded by large number of osteoclasts and chronic inflammatory cells which declined later in the 3rd and 4th weeks and replaced with osteoblastic activities. CONSLUSION: These experimental data showed that distraction rate of 3 mm per day may lead to degenerative or even early arthritic changes in the TMJ condylar cartilage in the 1st and 2nd post-distraction weeks. However, all condyles showed adaptive and remodeling sings in the following 3rd and 4th weeks.
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