How Can You Fix A Maxillary (LeFort) Osteotomy Non-Union?

Q: Dr. Eppley, I had jaw surgery over 20 years ago and am experiencing headaches and upper jaw movement. I saw a surgeon who took a c-scan and said there is no bone holding jaw in place just scar tissue. I am looking for consultation. I would like to find some one who has experience in this procedure.

A: Based on your description of upper jaw surgery, I am going to assume that this means you originally had a LeFort 1 osteotomy. This would be a standard horizontal maxillary osteotomy done right above the tooth roots. If done over two decades ago, it may likely have been secured at the time of surgery with stainless steel wires rather than the more common plates and screws used from about 1990 on.

To have upper jaw movement at this point, you would have to have a partial or complete non-union of the osteotomy site which is hard to imagine at this point in time after your surgery. But a CT scan would show the bony anatomy across the osteotomy site and should have been completely healed in with bone even at 6 to 12 months after surgery. So if the surgeon sees that now, I would conclude that it is a real phenomenon as unusual as it is. This should be evident clinically by seeing if the maxilla (upper jaw) has much movement in it.

The question now is what to do about it, particularly given your symptoms. If your occlusion (bite) is good, I would recommend a debridement of the osteotomy line, placements of plates and screws and bone grafting to provide stability and get at elast a partial union across the osteotomy site.

Dr. Barry Eppley