Reconstructive Surgery

Reconstructive surgery differs from cosmetic surgery in that it endeavors to repair abnormalities in the body which may be as a result of development abnormalities, birth defects, trauma, injury, tumors or disease. Cosmetic surgery on the other hand reshapes normal features in a bid to improve your appearance and your self-esteem.

Who should have Reconstructive Surgery?

Two things come into perspective when considering who should have reconstructive surgery. The categories in this case are those who have congenital deformities – meaning those who are born with defects, and those who have development deformities – these are as a result of disease, accidents or infection as well as aging.

Examples of birth defects may include cleft lips, birthmarks, hand deformities, extra fingers and poor breast development. Developmental deformities may include burns, growths, lacerations and aging problems.

Planning the Surgery

There are guidelines that surgeons use when looking into a reconstructive surgery procedure. These guidelines are known as the reconstructive ladder and are arranged in such a way that the procedures that are least complex will fall at the bottom of the ladder and those that are complicated such as reattaching a severed limb will be at the top of the ladder. The approach to treatment begins at the bottom of the ladder in the consideration stages though those with the most urgency will take precedence.

The type of injury, the size of the injury and the extent of the injury are what will determine what treatment will be followed and how soon the procedure should be done. There may be a requirement for follow up visits especially for children because their growth pattern and the effects of the surgery procedure have to be monitored. The rate of healing cannot be determined because we all heal at different rates and therefore the doctor may only be able to give you a general idea of the duration of healing.

Reconstructive Surgery Video

Dr Gavin Sandercoe on Facial Reconstruction

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The Procedure
Wound Treatment:

This procedure requires the surgeon to determine the size and severity of the procedure. The surgeon will determine if there is skin missing or if there are nerves and muscles that have been affected. It is very important to ask questions as to what the procedure entails and have a clear understanding before making a decision.

Skin Grafts

This is a procedure whereby the surgeon uses a patch of healthy skin from a different part of the body and uses it to cover the area where skin may be missing or requires replacement. There are three types of skin grafts and these include Asplit-thickness skin graft, full-thickness skin graft and composite skin graft.

Tissue Expansion

This procedure is done to help the body grow and expand the skin by stretching the tissue in the adjacent area. A device similar to a balloon is placed under the skin and gradually filled with salt water over a period of time and this allows the skin to stretch and expand. The time required for this procedure will be dependent on the size of the area being repaired.

Flap Surgery

This form of reconstructive surgery is dependent on the extent of the injury. It allows for a surgeon to replant amputated parts of the body like fingers and is also used to transplant large parts of tissue or muscle from one part of the body to another. This procedure ensures full restoration of blood supply to the affected area.

Other reconstructive surgery procedures can be done to repair cuts and other surface wounds. Surgeons are also able to treat cancerous and non-cancerous growths. There are also procedures used to remove growths whether they are cancerous or benign.

Risks and Complications
As with all surgeries, there are risks involved and this one is no different. Approximately one-third of patients who receive an anaesthetic during surgery will experience “anaesthesia sickness” or post-operative nausea and vomiting (POVN).

It is hard to predict the outcome of reconstructive surgery due to the different types of anatomy as well as the fact that we all have different healing abilities. All surgeries are capable of having one complication or another, be it minor or major. Some of the complications of reconstructive surgery include:

Bleeding: This occurs as a result of many variables including having taken aspirin a few days before the procedure and may also be as a result of the vitamins one has taken before the surgery.

Bruising and Healing Difficulties: There are those of us whose bodies take a significant amount of time to heal while others are quick healers. There may be bruising as a result of the injury and if you have healing difficulties then the bruise may never disappear, although this is rare.

Complications may arise as a result of the patient being a smoker. You are required to quit smoking at least two weeks before the procedure and during the healing process. There may be other complications as well if the patient suffers from HIV or has some sort of impaired immune system. Poor nutrition may also increase the risk of reconstructive surgery complications and a balanced diet is highly recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. What is the difference between reconstructive surgery and plastic surgery?

A. The aim of reconstructive surgery is to improve your health and bodily functions as well as your appearance and alleviate disease, while plastic surgery usually only focuses on improving your appearance. Cosmetic surgery is an elective surgery procedure while reconstructive surgery is usually considered to be medically necessary.

Q. Who are the candidates for reconstructive surgery?

A. There are basically two categories of people who require reconstructive surgery and these are those with congenital defects and those with developmental defects. Congenital defects are body abnormalities one is born with while developmental defects are abnormalities that are as a result of an accident, disease or aging.

Q. What is the recovery time duration?

A. The time required for recovery is dependent on the patient and the type of reconstructive surgery performed. Some procedures can allow for the patient to resume work or daily functions immediately whole others may require weeks or months to recover.

Q. What is the cost of reconstructive surgery?

A. The cost is determined by a number of variables and you would be required to go for a consultation to establish the cost. General costs include the cost of the procedure, anesthesia costs and the operating room costs. In some cases, these can be covered by your insurance or even the public health system, but, again, you would need to consult your doctor.

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