Surgical repairs involve the skull (cranium), brain, nerves, eyes, facial bones, and facial skin. That is why sometimes a plastic surgeon (for skin and face) and a neurosurgeon (brain and nerves) work together. Head and neck surgeons also perform craniofacial reconstruction operations.
The surgery is done while you are deep asleep and pain-free (under general anesthesia). The surgery may take 4 to 12 hours or more. Some of the bones of the face are cut and moved. During the surgery, tissues are moved and blood vessels and nerves are reconnected using microscopic surgery techniques. Pieces of bone (bone grafts) may be taken from the pelvis, ribs, or skull to fill in spaces where bones of the face and head were moved. Small metal screws and plates may be used to hold the bones in place. The jaws may be wired together to hold the new bone positions in place. To cover the holes, flaps may be taken from the hand, buttocks, chest wall, or thigh.
Sometimes the surgery causes swelling of the face, mouth, or neck, which may last for weeks. This can block the airway. For this, you will need to have a temporary tracheotomy. This is a small hole that is made in your neck through which a tube (endotracheal tube) is placed in the airway (trachea). This allows you to breathe when your face and upper airway are swollen.
Craniofacial reconstruction may be done if there are:
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general are:
Risks of surgery of the head and face are:
These complications are more common in people who:
You may spend the first 2 days after surgery in the intensive care unit. If you do not have a complication, you will be able to leave the hospital within 1 week. Complete healing may take 6 weeks or more.