What is facial reconstruction surgery?
Facial reconstruction is a type of plastic surgery which involves some form of modification to the facial structure. It is usually performed for the following reasons:
• Restoring/Improving appearance
• Restoring functionality, such as chewing and making facial expressions.
• A combination of both
As our faces have some of the most complex musculoskeletal, vascular and nervous structures in our body, facial reconstruction is highly intricate process which requires a surgeon with years of training and experience.
In general, the following individuals may want to consider facial reconstruction surgery:
- Have visible facial defects/deformities, and wish to correct the defect or improve their appearance. These defects/deformities may include:
- Damage from severe thermal, chemical or radiation burns
- Damage from accidents, injury and other trauma
- Damage from severe skin infection and diseases
- Birth defects such as asymmetric faces, or birth marks
- Have no visible facial defects, but have functional issues related to facial muscles, nerves and other tissue, and wish to restore functionality
- Have no visible and functional facial defects, but wish for a large scale change in their appearance that is difficult to achieve with other plastic surgery procedures.
For functional issues however, relevant specialists may need to be consulted as well (neurologist, ENT specialists, orthopaedists etc) to identify the root of the problem before committing to facial reconstruction.
Facial reconstruction is a highly variable procedure as everyone has different conditions and requirements. The plastic surgeon will usually analyse each individual case and customise the treatment required, with other relevant specialists. Nevertheless, the following can be expected in general:
- If only minor corrections are needed, the plastic surgeon will usually reposition existing soft tissue and cartilage at the surgery site. The skin incised for the surgery (usually called a “skin flap”) is then stretched to cover the defect as required.
- For more severe cases, the skin, soft tissue, cartilage and sometimes even bone, muscle , blood vessels and nerves will need to be transplanted/grafted from other parts of the body. Artificial implants made of metal or reinforced plastic might be used to substitute damaged bone and cartilage in some cases.
In addition to the above, some other plastic surgery procedures may be performed as required:
- Cleft lip and palate repair
- Otoplasty (Ear Surgery)
- Facial paralysis surgery
- Microvascular free tissue transfer
- Rhinoplasty (Nose surgery)
- Scar removal
Most, if not all facial reconstruction procedures are carried out under general anaesthesia.
Local anaesthesia will be administered so there will be minimal pain and discomfort
Facial reconstruction surgery produces permanent results.
Depending on the complexity of your surgery, post-operation care can differ. However, the following are to be expected in general:
- You are expected to wear a dressing over the surgical wounds for several days to prevent infection
- Avoid exposure to the sun and other radiation sources to promote recovery
- Avoid strenuous activities for at least 6 weeks
- You may be asked to consume only soft, easy to chew foods (like soup and porridge) for some time to avoid exertion of facial muscle and other tissue.