Surgery on very small blood vessels is known as microvascular surgery. The surgeon works through an operating microscope, using specialized instruments and delicate needles, with fine sutures.
Whilst as the name suggests, this type of surgery applies to the blood system, similar approaches are used for nerves, or other delicate tissue. A significant part of skilled maxillofacial surgery.
Face and neck reconstruction often involves using blood vessels, bone, muscle and skin from other parts of the body. Which could be following trauma, accident, cancer, or other diseases.
Microvascular surgery can apply to the larynx, oral cavity, salivary glands, your jaw, tongue, skin and more. Also to a group of techniques used to return your face and neck to as close to normal as possible:
Free muscle transfer — Your surgeon harvests a section of muscle, often from the back, or adbomen. Valuable for structural and functional areas, or to help seal off the central nervous system and promote healing.
Free bone transfer — A procedure needing particular care, as precise alignment and skin coverage are required. Bone can be taken from a variety of places, depending on need, your fibula can be a good source.
Free skin & fat transfer — A prime consideration for tissue selection will be vascularity, in essence, how well the local systems match. Your forearm, or thigh are often ideal for head and neck reconstruction.
Free flap (or tissue) transfer — Free flap transfer is the common description for most forms of microvascular surgical transfer. Neither are aspects always separate, multiple types of tissue can be transferred at the same time and often are.
Whilst our maxillofacial consultants treat complex requirements, free flap transfer can be used simply to repair a small wound, following the removal of a facial lesion, or skin cancer.
The same level of expertise applies to all microvascular surgery in our London clinic and to any tissue transplant. You are welcome to see further detail on microvascular reconstruction, in line with the summary below.
Preparation is likely to have involved detailed personal consultation, along with any required testing and analysis. Perhaps imaging techniques such as MRI, or x-ray, cardiac testing, tumour mapping, or biopsy.
The primary requirement is patient care and safety, based on understanding of an individual case and well thought through treatment planning. You can see a video on reconstruction in theatre, should this be required.
Forms of microvascular surgery can take place under local anaesthesia, although the nature of the procedure, or equipment normally require general anaesthesia and a hospital environment.
Your surgery will have been discussed with you for as long as you need and personal preparation explained. What to do the night before and on the day of surgery, along with likely recovery times.
The surgery itself will be carried out by a highly skilled maxillofacial consultant, who you will know. Support staff are equally well trained and the hospital facilities used are excellent.
A Supportive Approach
Any family members you wish to be involved, during consultation, or at hospital are welcome. Our staff are also there at all times to offer support, or assist in any practical way you wish.
Recovery times will vary, depending on the nature of the surgery. You could be back to normal quite quickly, or sedated for a while.
The level of care during recovery from facial surgery will remain high. Any appropriate rehabilitative treatment, follow up appointments, medication, or wound care will be arranged and discussed with you.
Microvascular surgery offers remarkable treatment opportunities. We approach them in a consultative and supportive way, by all means get in touch with our friendly staff if we can help.