What are the complications associated with this procedure?

October 9, 2019

This is usually a very safe procedure, which is carried out regularly in this hospital by specialised and experienced clinical staff.

Complications with this type of surgery are, fortunately, rare and may not apply to you, but it is important that you are aware of them. Your surgeon and orthodontist will discuss your individual risk rates for your treatment.

The most commonly reported complications are:

Numbness

Your lips, chin and gums may all be numb immediately after your operation. The upper lip recovers relatively quickly, while the lower lip is much more variable and may take six to nine months to get normal feeling back.

In 30% of cases, there may be some permanent loss or alteration of sensation, but the lips look and move normally, and surveys suggest that this rarely bothers patients.

Infection

The small titanium plates and/or screws are usually left in place permanently. In less than 10% of cases, the plates may have to be removed if they should become infected. If this is the case, the plates can be removed during a short day case procedure.

Readjustment of the bite

Occasionally, patients may wake up from their relaxed state (caused by the anaesthetic) and the strong jaw muscles then alter the position of the jaw. Although the bite may be only a few millimetres out of place, a second operation to adjust the bite fixation may be necessary.

Surgical Relapse

With most patients, significant relapse is not a problem. However, in those who are having complicated surgery (movement of 10 mm or more in one jaw, patients previously having had a cleft palate, or those with a particularly unusual bite), relapse can occur, where the muscles, skin, tongue and lips of the face pull the face and teeth towards their original position. If relapse does occur, it is exceptionally rare for this to be significant. However, there is also orthodontic relapse and long-term, age changes which the orthodontist will discuss with you.

Blood loss

Blood loss is usually minimal and a blood transfusion is rarely needed; less than 1% of our patients have needed a blood transfusion.

Limitations of mouth opening

There may be limitations of mouth opening, but this resolves as healing progresses. Symptoms of jaw pain and dysfunction can be made worse by jaw surgery.

Changes to the shape of the nose

An operation on the top jaw may alter the shape of your nose.

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Nicholas Lee: Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, Sheffield UK