There are a lot of things that can happen to the face to make a facial reconstruction necessary. From illnesses to facial trauma to other situations, the face may need reconstructive surgery to get it as close to the way it looked before as possible. Sometimes, a free flap surgery is needed to help with the appearance and function of the face. This can help patients to be more comfortable with the way they look. When there is damage to the face, it can affect the way you eat, smile, and talk. When you get the surgery you need to reconstruct the face, all of these functions may be better.
Free Flap Surgery
The rebuilding of some of the face’s structures can often be done with a free flap surgery, or microvascular free tissue transfer. During this type of surgery, the doctor will take muscle, skin, or bone from a different part of the patient’s body and use it in the facial reconstruction. When this type of surgery is done, it’s known as a microvascular surgery because the transplanted tissue has small blood vessels in it that have to be connected carefully to the other vessels so that the surgery is successful. The artery of the vein in the flap of tissue that is being transferred is then sewn into an artery or vein that matches it at the site it is transferred to. This allows for the continuation of the blood supply. A microscope is used to allow for precision and to make the small sutures that are needed. The newly transplanted tissue has to have a blood supply to be healthy, and this type of surgery ensures that it has one. This reconstructive surgery often involves transferring the skin to a new area, but the tissue that is transferred may also be fatty tissue. Sometimes it includes some muscle as well.
It is the transfer of the tissue that is known as the “free flap.” The transplantation of the tissue is an important part of giving the affected area of the face better functionality in many cases. It can also make patients happier with the way their face looks. This type of surgery is commonly done after large areas of cancer have been removed from the head or neck. The ultimate goal is to improve both the appearance and functionality of the face so that the patient has a better quality of life.
If you’ve already had cancer surgery on the head or neck, you may have needed areas of skin, as well as other tissues, removed. If the area was a large one, it may heal with a look that you aren’t happy with. When this is true, free flap surgery can replace some of the tissues that were removed so that you can get closer to the way your face looked before.
Is This a Skin Graft?
Free flap surgery is not the same thing as a skin graft. When a patient gets a skin graft, this involves taking a thin layer of skin from one part of the body and transferring it to another to cover a wound. This isn’t the same procedure as with free flap surgery. With this type of surgery, the blood supply to the tissue is also transferred along with the transferred tissue. This is a more exacting surgery that can be highly effective for reconstructing an area with all of the tissue necessary to fill it out. When a skin graft is done, the skin often naturally contracts. This isn’t the case with free flap surgery.
The Advantages of Free Flap Surgery
Free flap surgery is often used in facial reconstruction because of its good outcomes and the many ways that it can restore the face. Perhaps the biggest advantage of doing it is the ability to restore both the function and appearance of larger areas. It’s also more likely with this type of surgery that the tissue that’s transferred will stay healthy because it comes from an area of the body that wasn’t affected by the cancer or other issue that caused the problem. The tissues from the donor area, including fat, nerves, skin, and muscle, can be matched in a highly precise way with the tissue that is around the site of the facial wound.
This type of surgery can be done in many different areas of the neck, head, and throat. It’s a versatile type of surgery that can help to correct a number of problems. It’s especially helpful when the area that needs reconstruction is a large one.
If you have had facial trauma, surgery, etc., and need facial reconstruction, you can call us at DFW Oral Surgeons for a consultation about your problem. You may be a good candidate for getting free flap surgery to correct the problem and create a better outcome.