Nerve & Soft Tissue Reconstruction: Why You Have Nothing to Fear
The mere idea of reconstructive surgery can sound intimidating. One of the first images that seem to come to mind is severed or mutilated limbs that somehow need to be put back into their proper position. But when you dig deeper, you find that reconstructive surgery has many health benefits that can significantly improve your quality of life. The benefit of seeking treatment from a plastic surgeon has to do with the extensive training they receive in both reconstructive and cosmetic cases. Not only can Dr Damon Thomas restore function to digits and areas of the face, but he can do so in a manner that leaves your body looking cosmetically appealing. If you have been told that reconstructive surgery is the best option for your health, you may feel apprehensive, but there is also hope in knowing that your results will be functional and attractive.
When is Nerve or Soft Tissue Reconstruction Appropriate?
It is likely that if a condition arises in an area of the body that impacts natural function, reconstructive surgery may be necessary. One of the most important aspects of reconstructive surgery is ensuring that the area in question will have mobility that benefits the recipient as they carry out their everyday life. Limbs lacking functionality can pose a greater danger to the patient even if the disability is treated, which is why it is essential to discuss the best ways to preform surgery with a doctor.
More commonly, nerve and soft tissue reconstruction occur on the legs, hands or arms and face either due to congenital defect, a developing condition or injury. Regardless of the diagnosis, these conditions can cause serious discomfort and have consequences on the self-esteem. Dr Thomas treats many patients – adults and children – who suffer from:
- Syndactyly (webbed digits)
- Polydactyly (extra digits)
- Dupuytren’s contracture (bent digits due to fibrous tissue)
- Underdeveloped thumbs
- Amputations and lacerations
- Facial deformities and trauma
The techniques used to treat each of these conditions are different for every patient. Depending on the extent of the deformity and its location, the procedure will vary, but a consultation will be able to inform you of the best methods to use.
How is Soft Tissue Reconstruction Performed?
Although there are differences in each procedure, soft tissue reconstruction is usually performed using a patients own tissue. Skin can be grafted from another part of a patient’s body and transplanted onto the treatment area. Composite flaps of vascularised tissue of skin, muscle and or bone can be transferred for more complex defects. By using tissues from the same person, the body has a better chance of accepting the graft.
Autologous grafts involve many considerations, including the donor site as well as the size and depth of the treatment area. Typically, it is best for doctors to choose a donor site whose skin mimics the location in the limb needing the graft. Similar characteristics will help the skin look as natural as possible once it heals.
Soft tissue reconstruction may also require bone graft with either a patient’s own bone or a synthetic construct.
How is Nerve Reconstruction Performed?
Along with the restoration of soft tissue, nerve reconstruction is equally vital as it ensures the functionality of the limb and other areas in question. The nerves can be reconstructed in much the same way as a soft tissue graft. Nerve autografts are taken from the patient’s own body and used to recreate sensation in the treatment area. Nerve grafting can also include conduits, which are able to bridge the gap between two separate nerves and effectively repair functionality.
What to Expect When Reconstructing Nerves and Soft Tissues
Because these surgeries are more invasive than some of the others procedures that Dr Thomas performs, the use of general anaesthesia will be necessary for more extensive operations. Otherwise, local and IV sedation will be used for day procedures. This means that you will feel absolutely no pain while surgery is taking place, although you may experience some discomfort once the anaesthesia wears off. Most surgeries for soft tissue and nerve reconstruction are performed on an outpatient basis, with the majority of procedures taking only a couple of hours to complete. Dressings and sutures are placed onto the wounds once surgery is finished, and they are left on the treatment area for up to three weeks to promote healing.
You will receive informative care instructions from Dr Thomas before your procedure begins, and it is important that you follow these guidelines so as to ensure a comfortable and full recovery. Like the surgery itself, recovery also varies on a patient-by-patient basis, depending on the procedure performed. Some patients may recover in a matter of weeks while others may require physical therapy in order to fully restore function to the limbs. Dr Thomas works with both physiotherapists and occupational therapists to provide the best overall patient care, and a consultation with any of these professionals will give you an accurate assessment of how your surgery will be performed.
Though reconstructive surgeries sound invasive, each procedure simply aims to help you regain full mobility, improve your appearance and live a fulfilled life. A plastic surgery procedure for damaged nerves and tissues can provide you with aesthetics and function. For more information about nerve and soft tissue reconstruction on the hands, feet, face or other regions, contact Dr Damon Thomas on 03 9034 7738 and schedule a consultation.