Reconstructive Plastic Surgery

Head and Neck Reconstructions

Reconstructive head and neck surgery may be needed to correct congenital deformities, after cancer removal or after a traumatic injury. 

Surgeons at Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Canberra are the facial reconstruction specialists, utilising technological advancements in microsurgery and flap techniques. 


What is Head and Neck Reconstruction?

At Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Melbourne our surgeons use the most advanced head and neck surgical options for rehabilitating surgical defects caused by the removal of head and neck tumours.

One technique is harvesting flaps of healthy tissue along with its blood supply (vessels) attached. This tissue is removed from other parts of the body then transferred to the recipient wound bed.

The tissue will live as it was in its original location after surgeons use a microscope to suture the blood vessels of the flap to the blood vessels in the neck.

Reconstructive Surgery After Tumour Removal

Squamous cell carcinoma (melanoma) is one type of  cancer that may need reconstructive surgery using flaps, due to a local invasion of nerves and bone.

Tumours are categorised by the location and size of the primary tumour and if there is a presence of local disease spread (often in the neck area). More aggressive treatment may be needed for tumours in the neck, but they are still curable.

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the category of tumour, past treatments and your preference and will be devised after discussion with your oncology team. Some treatment options may include surgery, radiation or both. Chemotherapy may be considered as an additional option.



Recovery and Rehabilitation

Common side effects

One common side effect from head and neck reconstructive surgery and anaesthetics is fatigue, which may last up to a week or two after surgery. We recommend taking time off to rest and recover.

Your neck and face may swell after surgery and you may experience some numbness in the area. Feeling will return after time.

Leaving the hospital

We recommend having someone to pick you up after surgery. If you live alone, it’s best to organise some help at home until you can manage by yourself. Upon your discharge our team will help identify support options and resources.

Unless advised otherwise, you can shower as normal after surgery. Your incisions can get wet, however pat them dry afterwards. Your wounds should be kept clean and protected from the sun.

Our surgical team will provide post-operative care instructions upon leaving the hospital.

Tube feedings

Tube feedings are also commonly required after head and neck reconstructive surgery. If you go home on tube feedings, your case manager will organise an agency to supply formula etc. You and your carer will be shown how to deliver the tube feeding formula at home.

Physical therapy after reconstructive surgery

To regain your strength you may need some physical and/or occupational therapy post-surgery. Our team will organise a therapist to come to your home.

Additional treatment after surgery

Some cancer patients may need additional chemotherapy or radiation after reconstructive surgery. These details will be discussed during the first or second post-operative consultation.

More information

What else you should know

Will I need more therapy?

After this kind of surgery it’s possible you may need some speech and swallowing therapy. If this is the case, you will be referred to a speech therapist. Speech therapy is especially important for patients who will require radiation therapy to the throat after surgery.

When can I drive a car again?

Once you are not taking any pain medication you are normally safe to drive, however we recommend speaking with your doctor first.

How soon can I exercise after surgery?

You can take up light exercise such as walking once your energy levels return. Be careful not to overdo it and always check with your doctor first.

Will there be scarring?

Scarring is common after surgery, with some scars more prominent than others.

Our surgeons expect good wound healing, however at times abnormal scars can develop within the skin and deeper tissue. They may be a different colour to the surrounding skin.

What are the risks and complications?

Like all surgery, head and neck reconstruction comes with risks and possible complications, although they are rare.

There may be blockages at the arterial or venous attachment to the flap. The flap may be lost or you may need additional surgery to remove the blockage.

If healing is interrupted areas of the flap can die, meaning more dressing changes or surgery to remove the dead tissue.

If the area receives a decreased blood supply healing may be delayed. This could be caused by past surgery or radiation therapy.

If you are overweight, obese,  have a high BMI or a smoker, healing may also be delayed and you may be at greater risk of flap loss.

Our Canberra specialists

The team at RPS Canberra are committed to providing you with the best possible outcome.

The extensive specialist skills of our surgical team ensure that you are provided with surgical options designed to maximise form and function.

Our surgeons hold an impressive array of academic credentials, extensive professional experience and a personal commitment to patient satisfaction.