Definition and Overview
All patients who have undergone facial reconstructive surgery are required to follow-up with their surgeon following the procedure to ensure their safety and monitor the healing and rehabilitation process. In cases where complications have developed, the follow-up visit will ensure that they are addressed properly and in a timely manner.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
All patients who undergo facial reconstructive surgery are strongly advised to go to their follow-up appointments. Follow-up care is a vital part of the whole process because it helps ensure that:
- The patient’s desired results are achieved
- The patient recovers fully
- Medications, if prescribed, are working as expected
- No complications or side effects of medications have occurred
- All complications are addressed promptly and properly
The follow-up appointment scheduled after the initial bruising and swelling have subsided is the most important as this is when the surgeon and the patient are able to observe the results of the surgery and compare it with the patient’s desired results.
Also, since all surgeries come with some risk of infection, patients are usually given antibiotics as a preventative measure. However, they need to be monitored due to the potential side effects of being on medication.
How the Procedure Works
A facial reconstructive surgery follow-up takes place at the surgeon’s office or clinic, and may last for around 30 minutes. It is usually scheduled on the:
- The day after the procedure
- One week after the procedure
One month after the procedure or after the initial bruising and swelling have subsided
During the follow-up, the surgeon will begin by asking the patient how he feels and if he is experiencing any symptoms to assess how well he is recovering. Although pain, bruising and swelling are very common, they are expected to improve after 7-10 days. Other common symptoms that may be expected include:
Tightening around the eyes
- Sore throat
- Mild nausea
- Asymmetric swelling
- Skin irregularities
- Lumpiness of the underlying skin tissue
- Numbness in some parts of the face
- •Mild blurry vision
- Dry eyes
Symptoms other than these should be reported to the doctor.
If complications have developed and were addressed during the initial follow-up, the surgeon will schedule more follow-up appointments for the long-term care of the patient until complete recovery is attained. However, patients who notice or experience some unusual symptoms should request for a follow-up check up immediately even if they are not scheduled to see the surgeon anytime soon.
After the first month post-surgery follow-up, the patient is expected to continue to heal slowly for at least a year. Although surgeons do not normally schedule follow-ups after the first month, patients can still request for an appointment if they have any concerns about the long-term effects of the procedure, such as scarring as well as any changes in the results, which may be caused by the loosening of the skin. In some cases, the patient may decide to undergo another surgery to correct such problems.
Possible Risks and Complications
The primary purpose of a facial reconstructive surgery follow-up is to guard against the possible complications that are associated with the said procedure. Failing to show up for scheduled follow-up visits will increase the patient’s risk of experiencing these complications and any serious consequences that may result from them.
These complications include:
- Fluid buildup under the skin
- Excessive bleeding
- Skin breakdown
- Nerve damage, which can be either temporary or permanent
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism
- Organ damage
- Complications arising from the use of anaesthetics during the procedure, such as allergic reactions, pneumonia and anaphylaxis
- Dissatisfaction with the resulting appearance of the face
In some cases, patients decide to pursue more procedures after achieving full recovery in order to completely achieve their goals. To prevent serious risks to health, surgeons advise them to wait at least four months after a procedure before undergoing a new one. A follow-up visit to the surgeon after four months will help ensure that the patient is ready for another surgery.
- American Society of Ophthalmic and Reconstructive Surgery. Available at: www.asoprs.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3659.