Reconstructive microsurgery is an operation typically performed with the use of a microscope or other magnification technique. It can help surgeons reattach various kinds of tissues and bone as well as nerves and blood vessels. This is often done as an alternative to closing wounds that don’t heal on their own, or to grafting skin. Skin, muscle, bone, and blood vessels can be transferred from one part of the body to another. Begun in the 1960s, such surgeries have advanced over the years and are often used during weight loss, trauma, congenital deformity, and cancer surgeries.
Surgeons can take a flap of tissue and move it over, or completely remove tissues from one part of the body and attach them to another. Some examples of reconstructive microsurgery are the transplanting of a toe to a severely injured hand, or breast reconstruction following cancer surgery. It is sometimes possible to graft bone from other parts of the body and shape it into the contours of the jaw following injuries or other surgery. Since the 1980s, reconstructive treatments have generally advanced to help bring back the functional characteristics of the jaw, hands, and many other parts of the body.
Many microsurgeries are complex and the results cannot always be predicted. Surgeons often prepare patients for the fact that more than one surgery may be needed. A few days in the hospital are often required and it can take three weeks or sometimes longer to fully heal. Surgical treatments are sometimes performed on the chest wall, and often restore blood flow to areas affected by congenital deformities, injuries, or cancer, by connecting veins. Similar reconstructive microsurgery procedures can be done on the arms and legs.
Abdominal tissue, skin and muscle flaps from other parts of the body, and blood vessels from under the abdominal muscles can be used in breast reconstruction. Skin reconstructive microsurgery is often used in these cases as well as other procedures. The tissue can even be expanded to accommodate reconstructive implants, close wounds, and build skin for placement on other parts of the body.
Specialists in reconstructive microsurgery work worldwide and often treat victims in disaster areas such as earthquake zones. They may affiliate with international organizations that can advocate awareness of problems that can lead to reconstructive treatments, such as injuries due to lawn mowers or animal attacks. Surgical procedures used to reconstruct parts of the body often save lives, but can also allow someone to function close to normal once he or she has healed.