After a serious accident, it is not uncommon for a victim to require reconstructive plastic surgery to correct functional impairments. One of the most common types of reconstructive plastic surgery is facial reconstructive plastic surgery which is performed on victims who may have been in an accident that caused disfigurement of the face.
At the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal, our Denver car accident lawyers understand how frustrating and painful reconstructive surgery can be and appreciate the significant physical and financial difficulties that can result. To begin the process of obtaining compensation for your injuries and the associated costs, contact us at (303) 825-2223.
Facial reconstructive plastic surgery is utilized to repair developmental deformities following a major accident; to repair damaged or altered facial features; to restore facial function, and to return the face to its original state. Patients that require facial reconstructive plastic surgery were usually involved in a severe car accident or suffered an extreme burn injury. There are fourteen bones in your face.
The vomer is one of the unpaired facial bones and forms the inferior part of the nasal septum. The inferior nasal concha extends horizontally along the lateral wall of the nasal cavity. The lacrimal bone is the most fragile bone of the face and is located at the front part of the eye socket. The mandible, or jawbone, is the strongest and lowest bone of the face. The zygomatic bone, or cheekbone, is a paired bone that works with the maxilla, temporal bone, sphenoid bone and frontal bone and sits at the upper and lateral part of the face.
Fractures of the facial bones require significant force. The force required varies depending upon which of the 14 bones is involved in the incident. For example, a nasal fracture requires 30 g of force while a fracture of the supraorbital bone requires 200 g.
A burn injury refers to damage to the body’s tissues caused by heat, chemicals or electricity. Burn injuries are categorized into three different categories; first-degree, second-degree and third-degree. A first-degree burn involves damage to the outer layer of skin. A second-degree burn involves damage to the outer layer as well as the layer underneath. A third-degree burn is the worst type of burn injury and involves the destruction of the deepest layer of skin and tissue.
Diagnosing a Facial Fracture After a Car Accident
Before other methods of diagnosis are utilized, often the first step in diagnosing a facial fracture is undergoing a physical examination. During the exam, the doctor will examine your face for any signs of swelling and pain. The mobility of your face will also be checked. Your doctor may look for the following symptoms:
- An orbital fracture will usually involve swelling and bruising around the eye; numbness of the cheek and a sunken appearance of the eyeball.
- A fracture of the sinus bones will usually involve bruising around the eyes as well as an appearance of widening around the eyes.
- Maxillary fractures will present themselves by changing the way the teeth fit together. Watery fluid may also continually drain from the nasal cavity.
- Jawbone fractures will usually involve extreme pain when the top and bottom teeth are brought together. There may also be bruising under the tongue as well as numbness in the chin area.
One of the most common methods of diagnosing a broken bone in the face is an X-ray. During a facial X-ray, a series of pictures of the bones of your face are taken, focusing on the bones around the nose and eyes. During an X-ray, small amounts of radiation are utilized to visualize fractures. Passages of the face that normally have air passing through them will appear black if healthy while a grey or white image will indicate a possible fracture.
Common Reconstructive Surgery Procedures After a Car Accident
If you have sustained a facial fracture due to an accident, it is likely that you will have to undergo some type of surgical procedure. To repair a facial bone fracture, the skin is carefully opened and bones are then fixed, removed, or moved back to their normal position. Screws and/or plates are used to stabilize the bones.
Risks of reconstructive plastic surgery include:
- Airway compromise
If the surgery is a success, you will recover feeling and function within your face.
If you have suffered a skin burn as a result of an injury, the reconstructive surgery will likely involve a skin graft. To perform a skin graft, your surgeon will choose a donor site from your chest, thigh or buttocks. Skin will be removed from the donor site and placed on the injured area. Foam rubber will then be used as the dressing that will secure the graft by providing constant light pressure.
Risks of undergoing a skin graft reconstructive surgery include:
- Loss of the grafted skin
- Skin discoloration
- Uneven skin surface
A new surgical procedure that is used after the most extreme of accidents is that of a face transplant surgery. The procedure, which was first performed in 2008, is incredibly rare and will likely never be common place. The surgery serves to replace part or all of your face. Before the treatment can be considered a realistic option, psychological testing is performed to make sure you are emotionally healthy enough for the surgery. After the psychological testing phase is completed, the next step in a is to procure healthy, matching tissue from a donor. You are then prepped for surgery. The procedure involves the removal of any dead or injured tissue and then the new tissue is attached and blood flow is restored. Nerves, muscles, and bones are re-attached. As you can imagine, there is a lengthy rehabilitation process after surgery that involves re-learning how to eat, speak and make facial expressions.
Compensation for Treatment Costs
If you have been forced to undergo reconstructive plastic surgery as a result of a serious accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical treatment and surgical procedures. By pursuing a personal injury claim, you can seek damages not only for direct medical expenses (things such as hospitalization, doctor visits, and physical therapy/ongoing treatment costs) but also lost wages for periods of time you were unable to work due to your injuries and/or subsequent treatment.