Q: Dr. Eppley, I am interested in a custom implant in the subnuchal region of my occipital skull. I know that fat grafting is another options to augment this area due to the neck muscles attaching to the skull there. My questions are what are the possible complications could be, and if you have seen these types of complications in any of the other skull shaping patients you’ve operated on. Hypothetically, in my case, I believe that such an operation could involve clearing/removing a 2cm width band under and parallel to the nuchal ridge on one side before in order to have the implant attached. Would this have a severe effect on head and neck movement and/or cause long term pain?
If this is not a viable option I’m curious as to whether an implant could be placed in a pocket over the muscles/tendons and not directly against the skull. I have read that implants used in other areas (ie. breast implants) are at times placed within or over muscles and are not secured to any hard body structure. Could an implant be placed in the subnuchal area over the tendons, thus avoiding their separation from the skull? Subsequently if there was an implant placed this way, and if a portion of the implant extended to an area of the skull without/ not covered in tendons, could it then be attached there? Alternatively is there a method of fixation to the skull that could occur through the tendons (i.e., with screws) to secure an implant in place. I ask this after reading of non-secured implants causing erosion of tissue with micro-movement over time.
At this time I am willing and able to pursue a surgery if there could be an intervention that was safe effective visually and that is stable over time. I would be grateful for any input you may have.
A: Placement of a subnuchal skull implant for low occipital/upper neck augmentation would have to be placed on top of the muscular fascia as opposed to under it against the bone. Stripping the muscular attachments off the bone is associated significant discomfort and recovery of neck motion. Once in the subcutaneous tissue plane between the skin and the fascia the implant will generate a layer of scar around it which will keep it in placed. (much like a breast implant)
The only anatomic risk of placing an implant in this area is the greater occipital nerve. Fortunately this nerve lies under the muscular fascia and does not common through until higher up over the bone.
Dr. Barry Eppley