Understanding The Risks Of Facial Reconstruction For Your Child Before Moving Forward With Surgery

All surgery has risks. Your doctor is supposed to go over those risks with you to help you make your best decision about a surgical procedure. In the case of facial reconstruction for a child, there are many risks, and you should know what all of them are before you proceed with surgery.

Breathing vs. Not Breathing

Children who require facial reconstruction often face this extreme situation. They cannot breathe on their own before surgery because they have a malformed nose, sinus cavities, and/or cleft palate. They will not be able to breathe well at all during surgery when these facial problems are being corrected.

The surgeon has to find a way to sustain breathing during surgery such that the breathing apparatus does not get in the way of the procedure and does not leave your child unable to breathe. It is one of the most complicated of surgeries, and there is a chance your child could pass away on the operating table. But, since he/she currently cannot breathe without assistance, there is a chance he/she could still die if the surgery is not done. These are the risks when reconstruction on the nose, sinuses, palate, and throat is necessary to help a child breathe on his/her own. 

Eating, Chewing, and Speaking 

Children born with deformities to the lower jaw, lips, mouth, and/or tongue can definitely benefit from surgery to these areas. Their ability to speak, eat, and chew will improve.

However, there may be a lot of breaking bones and resetting them to get the jaw to move into the right position, and sometimes cheekbones may need to be broken as well. There is a lot of pain involved, and your child cannot touch his/her face during healing.

The risks of infection are great because the process involves the mouth, which is often a breeding ground for bacteria. Even when the child will eat nothing by mouth (NPO) until everything heals, infections can still occur. As the parent, you will have to be hypervigilant about watching your child for signs of infection after surgery. 

Seeing or Not Seeing

The ocular sockets are delicate structures. In some surgeries, it takes multiple successive surgeries to form a fully functional socket. Even then, there is no guarantee that the eyeball in it will function as expected, but until the socket is opened up and the optical nerves tested, there is no way of knowing if your child will be blind in one or both eyes.

In most cases where there is an ocular malformation, the obscured eyeball is not functional, even if the connected nerve is. Still, if your facial reconstructive surgeon can restore some sight to your child, it is worth it.