Our lips play a vital role in everyday life: We need them to speak properly, eat, and make recognizable facial expressions. Lips are also one of our most prominent features; after our eyes, they’re the first thing strangers notice about us.
A severe lip injury can have lasting detrimental effects on a person’s quality of life, affecting everything from confidence to self-expression. This is why a small number of skilled facial surgeons in the United States provide a specialized procedure to patients who have sustained a disfiguring lip injury: Lip reconstruction surgery.
Who Can Benefit from Lip Reconstruction Surgery?
Lip reconstruction surgery is usually recommended for patients whose lips have been damaged as a result of the following situations:
Both oral cancer and skin cancer frequently develop on or near the lips. These cancers can usually be successfully treated with a combination of excision surgery and targeted cancer therapies, but this cure comes at a cost: Patients are often left with a pitted scar around the excision site.
Deep lacerations, like those frequently sustained during motor vehicle accidents, can damage both the form and the function of the lips.
Though permanent lip implants are rarely used to enhance the lips (most plastic surgeons prefer to use dermal fillers instead), some patients pursue this option. If they develop complications (e.g., post-surgical infection) or later choose to have their lip implants removed, they can experience unsightly scarring.
Finally, some patients opt to have minor lip reconstruction for purely cosmetic reasons. For instance, they may wish to have a large benign mole or cyst removed and then use reconstructive surgery to hide the scar.
What Happens During Lip Reconstruction Surgery?
The aim of lip reconstruction surgery is to restore both the appearance and the functionality of the patient’s lips so that they look and feel like they did before the patient was injured. When performing this procedure, plastic surgeons do their best to preserve sensation and limit additional scarring.
Lip reconstruction begins with alignment: Dr. Mussat will make sure the primary features that comprise your lips (the philtrum, vermilion border, and commissures) are lined up correctly. Sutures will be used to keep these critical features in place while they heal. Once she’s treated any deep tissue injuries, she’ll carefully position skin and muscle tissue over the wound. A final set of sutures will then be used to close your wounds.
Sometimes, the lips become so badly damaged that an extra step is required to complete the lip reconstruction process: Grafting. Grafting uses skin (and sometimes fat and muscle tissue) from another site on the body to cover a large area on the lips. (The “donor tissue” is taken from a part of the body that’s not usually exposed.) This technique is used when the patient’s wound is so large that pulling a flap of nearby skin over it would create a puckered, obvious scar.
When Should I Schedule Lip Reconstruction Surgery?
The best time to have lip reconstruction surgery is immediately after you’ve been injured, provided you’re in stable condition. For this reason, many plastic surgeons will coordinate with general surgeons to make sure that patients can have lip reconstruction within 24 hours of their cancer excision surgery. This option is also available for patients who are having a benign growth removed. Dr. Mussat offers cyst and lesion removal, so she can perform both procedures if needed.
If you’re planning to have lip surgery or your lips have been injured during an accident, contact Dr. Mussat to learn more about your options for lip reconstruction. The restoration of your bright, confident smile begins with a personal consultation.