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Reconstructive Surgery

Injury, disease, a birth defect -- or a surgery like mastectomy -- can all leave the body disfigured. Through reconstructive surgery, however, those physical problems can be corrected.

Breast reconstruction or reduction, foot or hand surgery, burn wound care, limb reattachment, and facial correction like cleft lip surgery are just a few examples. Reconstructive surgery can help repair any part of the body.

The Procedures: There are many surgical methods to achieve the desired results. Your surgeon will help you weigh all the options. The two of you can decide together which one best suits you. Reconstructive surgeries are typically used for:

  • Breast reconstruction or reduction - for women who have undergone a mastectomy or who have very large breasts; men also undergo breast reduction.
  • Surgeries for feet and hands - for people with tumors (cancerous and noncancerous); webbed toes or fingers; extra fingers or toes; or carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Wound care - for severe burns or cuts.
  • Microsurgery or flap procedures - to replace parts of the body affected by injury or disease - like a finger lost to amputation or a leg lost to cancer.
  • Facial surgeries - to correct structural problems causing cleft lip (a birth defect) as well as breathing problems, sinus infections, and snoring.

Common Side Effects: The side effects will depend on the procedure used. Your doctor can provide more information on common side effects to expect from your procedure.

Complications: There is always a risk of infection at the surgical site. Other complications depend on the procedure.

Recovery: Healing from these procedures generally takes several months. Once you are released from the hospital, you will recuperate at home. It is important to follow your doctors' instructions regarding wound care and infection prevention.

Results: The results of reconstructive surgery will last your entire life. They will be affected by the changes of aging, but the basic structural changes will remain intact.

Find out more about reconstructive surgery.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD, September 2005.

SOURCES: Christopher K. Livingston, MD, professor of plastic surgery, University of Texas Medical School, Houston. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Reconstructive Surgery."

Wound Repair

Burns, traumatic injuries, and any serious wound can benefit from reconstructive surgery. A skilled plastic surgeon can offer several procedures to improve your mobility, function, and the appearance of your wounds.

The Procedure: Depending on your injury, the surgeon will suggest various treatments. Among them:

  • Skin grafts: This is most often used for burn patients, when skin is removed from one area of the body and transplanted to another. Skin grafts are also used for breast or nose reconstruction procedures.
  • Microsurgery: This surgery involves sewing tiny blood vessels or nerves to reattach a severed finger, toe, ear, or lip. Microsurgery is also used to treat facial paralysis or reconstruct breasts.
  • Free flap procedure: Muscle, skin, or bone is transferred from one part of the body to another. The flap procedure is used for breast reconstruction or head-and-neck cancer surgery. This also involves microsurgery.
  • Tissue expansion: This procedure prompts your body to "grow" extra skin for use in breast reconstruction, scalp repair, or other procedures. A balloon expander inserted under the skin helps skin to stretch and grow, similar to a woman's skin during pregnancy.

Common Side Effects: The side effects will depend on the procedure used. Your doctor can discuss side effects in detail.

Complications: There is risk of infection at the surgical site.

Recovery: Healing from these procedures generally takes several months. Once you are released from the hospital, you will recuperate at home. It is important to follow your doctors' instructions regarding wound care and infection prevention.

Results: The results of reconstructive surgery will last your entire life. They will be affected by the changes of aging, but the basic structural changes will remain intact.

Find out more about plastic surgery for burns, traumatic injuries, and other wounds.

Back to top.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Jeffrey R. Marcus MD, assistant professor of surgery and pediatrics, Duke University School of Medicine. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Plastic Surgery for Burns, Traumatic Injuries and Other Wounds."

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