: The effect of aging on the orbitomaxillary region is evaluated in the present study. The observation was made that infants look like aged individuals in terms of the midface soft-tissue contours of the midface. Because preliminary work has shown that the facial skeleton remodels throughout life, this observation led to the hypothesis that infants and older individuals appear similar because they have comparable skeletal dimensions, specifically in the orbitomaxillary region.
The design is a retrospective analysis of three-dimensional computed tomographic scan data. Three groups of male subjects were studied: infant, ages 1 to 12 months (n = 5); youthful, ages 15 to 24 years (n = 13); and old, ages 53 to 76 years (n = 12). Orbital and zygomaticomaxillary vertical dimensions were measured in both medial and lateral planes between fixed anatomical landmarks. Results were compared by using analysis of variance, Student-Newman-Keuls, and Student's t tests.
The findings show that skeletal remodeling is such that the ratio of the maxillary height to orbital height is greatest during youth; during infancy and old age, there is a short maxilla relative to a larger orbit. This finding is significant in the medial plane from orbital rim to pyriform aperture (p < 0.05). Furthermore, there is an actual decrease in vertical maxillary height in this medial plane (p < 0.01) from youth until old age, which occurs secondary to normal skeletal remodeling in the dentate individual.
The combined effect of downward expansion of the orbital shelf and the upward migration of the pyriform effectively decreases the space available to support the overlying soft tissues of the midface. An accordion-like or "concertina" effect may lead to compression or restriction of the facial soft tissues over a relatively deficient bony platform. These results highlight the importance of skeletal remodeling in determining the soft-tissue contours of the aging face.
The process of skeletal remodeling may also allow for a tentative definition of facial youthfulness. Infants are born with a short maxilla relative to a large orbit, and the maxillary wall is angled posteriorly. This ratio and angle change from infancy until youth, when there is a balance between the bony skeletal support and the overlying softtissue envelope, i.e., the skin, facial muscles, and adipose tissue. It is when skeletal remodeling continues past this point that a disharmony occurs. Because the ratio of maxilla/orbit, and the angle of the maxillary wall, in the older person reverts toward that of an infant, the attainment of youth occurs partly in a nonlinear or multimodal manner.
This work is part of an emerging concept of facial aging, which we would term an integrated model of facial aging. This model allows facial aging to be viewed as a biological "system," in which there are primary and secondary factors that interact in the process of facial aging. Additional research such as this continues to suggest the importance of bony remodeling in facial aging. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 103: 635, 1999.)
(C)1999American Society of Plastic Surgeons