Definition and Overview
Reconstructive surgery is a procedure that aims to restructure a person’s facial features with the goal of improving its appearance. It is commonly performed on patients who suffered from facial injuries due to trauma but is also sometimes performed for cosmetic reasons. Although it is widely used and relatively safe, it carries with it a certain degree of risk, just like any other major surgical procedure. As such, patients who are considering this type of surgery are required to consult a surgeon prior to the operation.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
A facial reconstructive surgery consultation is beneficial for those who have:
- Facial disfigurement due to trauma
Facial abnormalities present since birth
During the consultation, the cosmetic surgeon will advise the patients on the specific kinds of facial reconstructive surgery they can undergo, which could include the following:
Facial transplants – As the name implies, this procedure entails replacing the patient’s entire face. The first near-total transplant was completed successfully in the year 2008, and since then, the technology that allows full-face transplantation has improved significantly. The procedure can be done following a severe facial disfigurement or to repair a severe birth defect affecting the facial features.
Facial trauma reconstruction – This refers to a procedure wherein specific injuries to the face, such as lacerations or fractures involving the skin, cheekbones, brow, eye sockets, and jawbone, are resolved. This typically entails bone segment realignments.
Cancer reconstruction – Some types of cancers can cause severe defects in a person’s face. Nowadays, these defects can be reconstructed using Mohs surgery which was designed to improve patient’s appearance following a successful cancer treatment.
Scar revision – This is a procedure wherein facial scars are camouflaged, hidden, or improved in appearance.
Cleft lip or cleft palate repair – Cleft lips and cleft palates are very distinct facial defects that many people would like to have repaired. Nowadays, it is possible with the help of facial reconstructive surgery, a procedure that can be done as early as 3 to 12 months after birth.
At the end of the consultation, an individual should have an idea about the type of reconstructive surgery is most ideal for him, taking into consideration his main concern, expected results and unique circumstances. He should also be informed on how these procedures will go, how complex they can be and whether some risks are involved. Armed with all the information he needs, the patient is expected to be able to make a well-informed decision as to whether he will pursue the procedure or not.
How the Procedure Works
Upon arriving at the surgeon’s office, the patient will be asked to fill up a patient information form, especially if it is his first time to visit the said surgeon. At this stage, the patient may be asked some questions about his medical history, any allergies and other basic information about his health. Any key information should be provided so that the surgeon can provide advice that is tailored to the patient’s condition.
The actual consultation begins with the discussion of the patient's specific facial problem. The doctor will then assess his condition to determine which surgical procedure can best address his condition. After this, the doctor will present his recommendations.
If the patient is determined to undergo facial reconstructive surgery, the consultation is only the first in a long series of steps he has to undergo. Before the consultation ends, the surgeon will refer him to a psychologist for psychological testing, which is required for all patients who wish to undergo the said procedure. This testing, which can be a long process that spans years in some cases, helps make sure that the patient is emotionally and psychologically healthy and prepared to undergo the complex procedure.
If the patient wishes to undergo a facial transplant, the process will also involve the search for a donor who has healthy, matching tissue. The surgeon will explain the entire process to the patient, along with all possible risks and complications associated with it.
Possible Risks and Complications
A facial reconstructive surgery consultation is an informative appointment wherein the goal is to discuss the possibility of undergoing the said procedure. No procedure will be performed during the visit, so there are no risks involved. In fact, it is meant to help keep patients safe from the possible risks and complications that may arise during the complex procedure, which may include:
- Allergic reactions to the anaesthesia
- Allergic reactions to the transplanted facial tissue
- Side effects of immunosuppressant drugs that face transplant patients are prescribed with after the surgery
- Permanent loss of feeling or movement in the face
- Tissue or nerve damage
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism
- Blood loss
Facial reconstructive surgery is also associated with a long and complicated rehabilitation process even if the surgery turns out to be successful with no serious risks.
Also, another common risk with facial reconstruction is a general dissatisfaction with the results of the procedure. This is why the consultation and succeeding psychological testing and evaluation are all required before a patient will be cleared for facial reconstructive surgery.
- American Society of Ophthalmic and Reconstructive Surgery. Available at: www.asoprs.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3659