Reconstructive surgery can restore a normal appearance to areas of the body affected by cancer or other surgeries. This can help regain self-image, confidence and comfort.
Some reconstructive surgery procedures use a patient’s tissue, such as skin, muscle, fat or bone. This involves microsurgery, where surgeons use high magnification to sew blood vessels that connect tissues.
How Does It Work?
Reconstructive surgery uses tissue from one body area to repair another part. For example, if a patient has head and neck cancer that changes the jawbone’s shape, surgeons might use bone from the leg.
The surgery involves stretching skin, closing wounds and using techniques like bone realignment. It improves a person’s function and appearance.
Some reconstructive procedures may be done immediately, while others may be done later, after the area heals or when patients finish cancer treatment. A plastic surgeon like Dr. Joel Aronowitz may work with oncologists or other healthcare professionals in these cases.
Advances in reconstructive surgery help patients feel more comfortable. For example, women who undergo breast reconstruction used to have to add fluid to a tissue expander weekly. Now, doctors use air expanders that inflate gradually.
What Are the Benefits?
The main benefit of reconstructive surgery is that it restores a normal appearance after an injury or disease. It can also improve your comfort and confidence.
Your surgeon may use skin, tendon, or bone grafts from elsewhere on your body to repair the damaged area. This is called autologous reconstruction.
You may have reconstructive surgery right after cancer surgery or later. Sometimes, reconstructive surgery is combined with other cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy.
Your doctor will explain what to expect during the healing process, including how long it may take and what to look out for. They will also discuss whether you might benefit from additional surgery. They can also explain the concept of balance and how changing one part of your body might affect how it looks.
What Are the Risks?
There are risks associated with surgery. However, they can be minimized through careful patient screening and planning, high standards of surgical training and vigilant post-operative care. Complications can include hematoma and seroma, nerve damage leading to sensory or motor loss, infection, blood loss, skin necrosis, poor wound healing and anesthesia complications.
Bruising is common after most surgical procedures, and this will fade over a few weeks. Pain may also occur and can be managed with pain medications. Large surgical wounds can slowly heal, and excessive pressure on the site can impede the healing process. The surgeon’s technique can influence the risk of fluid accumulation (seroma). If symptoms of fluid build-up are not reported promptly, they can lead to an increased risk of infection and require drainage under medical supervision.
Can It Overlap with Cosmetic Surgery?
Experts, including Joel Aronowitz MD specialize in reconstructive surgery that aims to restore form and function to a part of your body damaged by an accident, injury, disease or congenital disability. Common procedures include breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, cleft lip and palate repair, facial reconstruction after trauma, and other techniques designed to help you lead a more normal life.
Cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, reshapes certain parts of your body to enhance your appearance. It’s often a personal choice, and there are many reasons South Texas patients choose to have cosmetic surgery, such as rhinoplasty to reshape their nose or facelifts to get rid of wrinkles.
Can Insurance Cover It?
Insurance coverage (including employer-sponsored and marketplace plans) generally pays for procedures doctors or physicians consider medically necessary. If surgery is meant to improve your looks, it’s probably not covered. However, if a procedure is required to fix a disease, injury, or congenital disability, most plans will cover it.
There is, of course, some gray area. For example, breast reconstruction surgery may be considered medically necessary in some cases if the surgeon can demonstrate that it is needed to relieve symptoms of cancer treatment and to prevent complications like skin disease or lymphedema.
Patients must understand their insurance coverage before deciding to have any surgery. Speak with a doctor or customer service representative to get all the details of what’s covered.