The present study was performed to compare vascularized and nonvascularized onlay bone grafts to investigate the potential effect of graft-to-recipient bed orientation on long-term bone remodeling and changes in thickness and microarchitectural patterns of remodeling within the bone grafts. In two groups of 10 rabbits each, bone grafts were raised bilaterally from the supraorbital processes and placed subperiosteally on the zygomatic arch. The bone grafts were oriented parallel to the zygomatic arch on one side and perpendicular to the arch on the contralateral side. In the first group, vascularized bone grafts were transferred based on the auricularis anterior muscle, and in the second group nonvascularized bone grafts were transferred. Fluorochrome markers were injected during the last 3 months of animal survival, and animals were killed either 6 or 12 months postoperatively. The nonvascularized augmented zygoma showed no significant change in thickness 6 months after bone graft placement and a significant decrease in thickness I year after graft placement (p < 0.01). The vascularized augmented zygoma showed a slight but statistically significant decrease in thickness 6 months after graft placement (p < 0.003), with no significant difference relative to its initial thickness 1 year after graft placement. In animals killed 6 months after bone graft placement, both the rate of remodeling and the bone deposition rate measured during the last 3 months of survival were significantly higher in the vascularized bone grafts compared with their nonvascularized counterparts (p < 0.02). By 1 year postoperatively, there were no significant differences in thickness, mineral apposition rate, or osteon density between bone grafts oriented perpendicular and parallel to the zygomatic arch. These findings indicate that the vascularity of a bone graft has a significant effect on long-term thickness and histomorphometric parameters of bone remodeling, whereas the direction of placement of a subperiosteal graft relative to the recipient bed has minimal effect on these parameters. In vascularized bone grafts, both bone remodeling and deposition are accelerated during the initial period following graft placement. Continued bone deposition renders vascularized grafts better suited for the long-term maintenance of thickness and contour relative to nonvascularized grafts.
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