Typical problems requiring face surgery are injuries to the face and their sequelae, cancer of the face, and functional disorders such as facial palsy and facial deformities. The face is a very complex part of the body, and treatment must be planned carefully, depending on what part or parts of the face need to be treated. Face surgeons treat problems with the eyelids, nose, lips, face, and skin of the neck as well as malfunctions of the facial muscles.
Surgery for injury is the treatment of wounds and tissue defects, where the skin and other tissues are set back in place. Problems from facial injuries, however, do not occur until later. Scars on the face are often very visible and mark a person. Furthermore, an injury may also cause a functional disorder, such as impaired function of the eyelids or lips. Scars can, for example, pull the lids into the wrong position, which can cause problems for the eye, too, as they tend to dry up. An injury to the nose may not just be unsightly – it can cause a functional disorder, such as nasal congestion.
The treatment of skin cancer on the face is often a challenging task. The presence of cancer sometimes means that large areas of the face have to be removed. Plastic surgeons make many kinds of skin flaps, where the missing part of the face is built back from adjacent tissue. An operation for cancer may also cause a functional disorder, e.g. to the eyelids or lips. An attempt is made to prevent these problems while the operation is being performed.
Furthermore, face surgery treats functional changes – facial palsy, for example. Problems with the facial nerves or nonfunctional muscles can be treated by using other muscles in the face. In some cases a functional muscle can be taken from elsewhere in the body and transplanted to the site of the missing face muscles.
Facial surgery varies from small operations performed under local anesthetic to operations lasting up to eight hours, where part of the face is reconstructed, for example. In challenging situations, microsurgical technology is often employed, where skin, muscle, or bone, with their blood vessels, is taken from elsewhere in the body. A missing part of the face is reconstructed using tissue taken from elsewhere and the blood vessels are connected to those in the face or neck. For example, a new cheek or lower jaw may be built using tissue from the leg. The recovery time for facial surgery varies from one day to months, depending on the extent of the operation.