Craniofacial synostosis designates premature fusion in sutures of the cranial vault (calvarium). When craniofacial synostosis is associated with a syndrome (e.g., Apert, Crouzon), premature fusion of the cranial base has been postulated to occur as well. This study was designed to determine whether the primary growth disturbance in craniofacial synostosis is located at the cranial base (i.e., spheno-occipital synchondrosis) or the calvarial vault (i.e., coronal and sagittal sutures) or both. Sixty newborn New Zealand White rabbits were randomly assigned to six groups: (I) calvarial control, (II) cranial base control, (III) cranial base immobilization, (IV) coronal suture immobilization, (V) coronal and sagittal suture immobilization, and (VI) cranial base and coronal and sagittal suture immobilization. An anterior cervical microsurgical approach to the cranial base was used, while cranial vault sutures were exposed through a bicoronal scalp incision. All sutures were fused by periosteal abrasion and application of methyl cyanoacrylate. Cephalograms were taken at 30, 60, and 90 days postoperatively to assess craniofacial growth. Linear and angular measurements of facial, calvarial, and basicranial growth were subjected to multivariate analysis. Analysis indicated that (1) craniofacial length was shortened most significantly by cranial base fusion, (2) cranial base fusion and cranial vault fusion had an additive effect on craniofacial length restriction, (3) the anterior cranial base was significantly shortened by cranial base and cranial vault fusion (p < 0.05), (4) the posterior cranial base was shortened by cranial base fusion only (p < 0.05), and (5) cranial base fusion alone significantly flattened the cranial base angle (p < 0.05), whereas cranial vault fusion alone did not. These results suggest that cranial base fusion alone may account for many dysmorphic features seen in craniofacial synostosis. This model is consistent with the findings of other investigators and confirms both a primary directive and translational role of the cranial base in craniofacial growth.
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