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Face Reconstructive Surgery


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.

Why the Procedure is Performed

Craniofacial reconstruction may be done if there are:

  • Birth defects and deformities from conditions such as cleft lip or palate, craniosynostosis, Apert syndrome
  • Deformities caused by surgery done to treat tumors
  • Injuries to the head, face, or jaw
  • Tumors
Risks

Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general are:

  • Problems breathing
  • Reactions to medicines
  • Bleeding, blood clots, infection

Risks of surgery of the head and face are:

  • Nerve (cranial nerve dysfunction) or brain damage
  • Need for follow-up surgery, especially in growing children
  • Partial or total loss of bone grafts
  • Permanent scarring

These complications are more common in people who:

  • Smoke
  • Have poor nutrition
  • Have other medical conditions, such as lupus
  • Have poor blood circulation
  • Have past nerve damage
After the Procedure

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.