Post-Traumatic Reconstruction | MedStar Health

Whether it’s due to a car crash, physical violence, or another life-threatening incident, serious facial trauma can happen in an instant. For most patients, this trauma is treated soon after the incident, and they can receive care at the closest facility. But despite the best efforts of the trauma team, you may still have facial disfigurement after surgery. Fortunately, further care can improve your appearance. Post-traumatic facial reconstruction may be able to restore your face to a normal condition.

Virtually all post-traumatic facial reconstruction involves repairing soft tissue injuries using stitches. With the assistance of microsurgery techniques, facial nerves, salivary glands, and salivary ducts may also be treated. Soft tissue asymmetry, misalignment, or deficiency can all be corrected after the initial traumatic repair.

Many serious facial injuries also involve repairing facial bone fractures. Facial fracture repair can help improve facial form and function. This is typically done by using plate-and-screw fixation devices to connect the facial bones to stabilize your facial structure in the desired shape. If your bite is off or your bones are asymmetric, a post-traumatic procedure can improve or correct the condition in many cases.

Planning and recovery

Post-traumatic facial reconstruction is performed while you are asleep under anesthesia. During the procedure, your facial bones, tissues, blood vessels, and nerves may be cut and moved using a variety of surgical techniques. Other parts of your body may act as donor sites where bones or tissues may be taken to be used in the face. Most facial reconstructions take approximately four to 12 hours. It may take additional time for more complex cases.

Our locations

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MedStar Health: Plastic Surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Road NW,
BLES Building
1st. Floor
Washington, D.C., 20007


MedStar Health: Plastic Surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

106 Irving St. NW
POB North
Ste. 3400
Washington, D.C., 20010

MedStar Health: Plastic Surgery at McLean

6862 Elm Street
Suite 800
McLean, VA 22101


Frequently asked questions

  • How should I prepare for surgery?

    Before surgery, you may be asked to get blood tests and take or adjust medications. If you smoke, quitting will help you heal faster and avoid possible complications. You will be given special instructions to follow prior to your surgery.

    You will also need to arrange for transportation to and from the surgery and for someone to stay with you the night after the surgery.

    For more information, visit Patient Resources or Preparing for Surgery.

  • What are the risks of facial reconstructive surgery?

    According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, risks include:

    • Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations, or injected agents
    • Anesthesia risks
    • Bleeding (hematoma)
    • Change in skin sensation
    • Infection
    • Injury to the blood vessels, nerves, or tendons
    • Pain, which may persist
    • Poor healing of incisions
    • Possibility of revisional surgery
    • Skin contour irregularities
    • Skin discoloration/swelling
    • Unexpected swelling
    • Unfavorable scarring
  • Will I have dressings or bandages after surgery?

    You may have gauze or bandages applied to your incisions following surgery. In addition, a thin tube may be placed under the skin to drain excess fluid or blood. A member of your healthcare team will provide specific directions about how to clean and care for the surgical site.

  • How long does it take to recover from facial reconstructive surgery?

    Recovery time depends on the level of correction needed and whether additional treatments were done at the same time. You may experience bruising and swelling of your face immediately following surgery, which may last a few weeks. Recovery time may be longer for more complex cases.