Alero F. Inyang, Daniel Schwarz, Ameen M. Jamali, Steven R. Buchman
Background: The use of mandibular distraction osteogenesis (MDO) for tissue replacement after oncologic resection in head and neck cancer could have immense therapeutic ramifications. We have previously demonstrated significantly decreased mechanical and microdensitomeric metrics of our MDO regenerate after 36-Gy radiation. Quantitative histomorphometry, a third metric, would permit objective investigation of the effects of radiation on tissue and cellular composition. Our hypothesis is that radiation-induced cellular depletion and diminution in function impair optimal bone regeneration. Five rats received radiation to the left mandible; 5 received none. All animals underwent surgical placement of external fixators, creation of mandibular osteotomies, distraction to a 5.1-mm gap width, and consolidation. Point counting and color thresholding were performed. There was a significant increase in empty lacunae and a corresponding diminution in osteocytes after radiation. Whereas the volume fraction of mineralized, mature bone was not different, that of nonmineralized, immature osteoid was significantly increased in the radiated group compared with that in the nonradiated group. Our findings confirm our prior 2 metrics. Actually, all 3 diverse metrics-microdensitometry, biomechanical analysis, and histomorphometry-corroborate our hypothesis of cellular depletion and diminution of function as the potential mechanism of radiation-induced attenuation in the distracted regenerate. Furthermore, our findings of tissue and cellular changes in the irradiated regenerate elucidate the pathophysiology of decreased bone quality when amalgamated with our previous results. Therapeutic agents may now be introduced, and their effects on the irradiated regenerate critically measured, so that MDO may be used as a viable reconstructive option in patients with head and neck cancer.