Mandibular distraction was performed on 14 children, between September 1991 and December 1997. Their average age was 6.9 years, ranging from 1.5 to 13.5 years. All patients had severe hypoplastic mandibles with retromandibulism. Seven of the children (50%) had respiratory distress due to obstruction of the upper airway before distraction. This resolved in every case. Five patients underwent unilateral and nine bilateral distraction. A total of 23 distractors were used, 15 were applied extraorally and 8 endorally. The average latency time after operation was 2.8 days, but for the past 2 years, distraction was started beginning with the operation. The distraction was increased twice daily for an average of 5.5 weeks, by 0.4 or 0.5 mm each time, depending on the distractor. Computed tomography and ultrasound were used to follow the ossification process in the distraction gap and to measure the lengthening achieved. Subsequent retention time averaged 2.4 weeks. The mandibles were elongated by up to 18 mm (average 9.3 mm) and the respiratory distress symptoms resolved in all patients. Several minor complications which are reported occurred. Six patients were followed up for periods between 3 and 7 years. During this time further growth of the distracted mandibles was recorded.