Head and neck cancer surgery, which involves the removal of tumors and delicate tissues, can impact the cosmetic form, look and function of facial structures.

Wake Forest Baptist’s head and neck cancer surgeons are experts at performing microvascular reconstruction surgery to restore your appearance and quality of life following treatment. We treat more than 300 cases of cancer each year, many of which involve microvascular reconstruction surgery with free flaps.

Free flaps are skin grafts made of tissues, bone and nerves taken from other places in the body. After they are reconstructed to replace the defective tissues, your doctors will delicately reconnect the nerves and blood vessels of the flap to those on the body using state-of-the-art microvascular surgical techniques. This way, as the free flaps heal, they assume the function and form of the tissues they replaced.

Benefits of Microvascular Reconstruction Free Flaps

The first goal in any cancer surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible. However, because of the delicate nature of the structures in the head and neck, many times surgery can damage both form and function. This potential damage must be weighed against the benefit of removing the cancerous tissue. Therefore, if surgery is the best treatment option, but loss of tissue leads to cosmetic and functional deformities, free flap affords patients the best possible chance to have an optimal return to function.

Healing After Microvascular Reconstruction Surgery

If your microvascular reconstruction free flap was the first part of your treatment, then you can expect to heal for about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Your chemotherapy and radiation treatments can begin once your doctor feels that you are ready.