Which Is Better For Skull Reshaping – A Bone Cement or A Preformed Implant?

Q: Dr. Eppley, I am interested in skull reshaping. The occipital bone on my skull is flat and I am interested in correcting this, preferably with an implant. Surprisingly, you and a Korean clinic are the only 2 places I have found so far for this procedure. I have already ready about the risks and complications for elective surgery, I have read some of your blogs and had a few other questions. How many skull implants have you preformed and what complications have you seen? Do you recommend the putty over implants or no? I would worry that the putty would cause more complications and would be harder to remove if something went wrong. How much do you charge of this surgery? How long does the surgery take and what is the procedure? Could a rhinoplasty be combined with tis surgery and at what additional cost? If I opt for a rhinoplasty, would it be better to do the skull reshaping first and base the amount rhinoplasty on the new skull shape or vice versa? Thank you for your time and consideration.

A: Skull reshaping surgery is commonly done for a flat back of the head. When it comes to occipital augmentation for a flat back of the head, there are different types of augmentation approaches as you have mentioned. Bone cement or bone putty (PMMA or HA) and a preformed silicone implant can be used. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach. Bone cements offer materials that do bond to the bone and can be impregnated with antibiotics as they are mixed intraoperatively which are their advantages. I have yet to see an infection with a bone cement cranioplasty. Their disadvantages are that they must be molded and shaped as they are applied as a putty so they can have some irregularities and palpable edge demarcations which is the number one reason a revision on them may occasionally be done. A preformed silicone cranial implant is perfectly shaped and its flexible characteristics makes it very adaptable to the bone without edge demarcations. Its softer material also allows it to be placed through a smaller incision. But the material does not bond to the bone and ideally should be secured in place by a small titanium screw. Its infection risk is somewhat higher and it is the only cranial implant that I have ever seen develop an infection and had to be removed. (one case)

Regardless of the material, both are easy to remove and the actual material cost is not significantly different. Most occipital cranioplasties take between one to two hours to perform and total cost will be in the $8,000 to $9,000 range.

Rhinoplasty can certainly be done at the same time as any skull reshaping surgery and actually commonly done, regardless of the type of rhinoplasty needed. If one separated the two procedures,   the order that are done on does not make a difference.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana