About craniofacial osseointegration
- Craniofacial osseointegration is a relatively simple procedure that can remove the stress associated with traditional methods for attaching a silicone prosthesis to your face.
- It involves a 2-step procedure, with a minimum gap of 3 months between each step.
- If you have heard of a dental implant, you are already familiar with this technology. The process is similar to the way a dentist would secure a false tooth after a dental extraction.
Facial prosthetics can be an important source of confidence for patients who have lost an eye, ear, or nose due to trauma or cancer. Usually made of silicone, these devices can ensure you feel supported and “whole” when interacting with others. This can help you to reclaim parts of your life that you may have lost after surgery and will enhance your social and physical rehabilitation.
In the past, many patients had to attach their prosthesis to their faces with glue, a method that many found to be unreliable and messy.
Instead, you can now secure a prosthesis with an osseointegrated bone-anchor, a method that has been in use for many decades. This involves placing a titanium metal implant into the bone. Your facial prosthesis will then be attached to this bone anchor, using magnets or clips.
What to expect
We will begin by working with you to learn about your unique needs. Together, we will carefully plan your procedure in collaboration with our prosthetic partners. This may require X-rays or (rarely) CT scans.
The surgery to place your bone anchor is relatively simple. It can be performed under local anaesthetic or a short general anaesthetic.
Surgery is usually a 2-stage process. During stage 1, we will prepare the area where the bone-anchor will be inserted by removing the overlying soft tissues and replacing them with a skin graft or flap. This helps avoid future problems with overgrowth of the soft tissue. Your surgeon will then insert the bone-anchors, leaving them to osseointegrate for 3 months.
After 3 months, your surgeon will begin stage 2; inserting the metal fixtures that will eventually attach to your prosthesis with clips or magnets. You will be able to see our prosthetist for a final fitting of your prosthesis as quickly as 6 weeks after this second stage.
You must focus on looking after your skin graft, which covers the bone anchors. Around 1-2 weeks after your surgery, we will remove any dressings and you can begin showering your wound (but do not soak in a bath). Remember to allow any crusts on your wound to fall off naturally; do not pick at them. After 2-3 weeks, the skin grafts or flaps will become stable enough to start moisturising them with Vaseline. You can also start to do the same with the donor site from which we took your skin graft.
You will now be able to see the metal fixtures attached to your bone-anchors. We will change your dressing 7-10 days after surgery and you will not need to have another dressing applied after this. From this point onwards, you should begin applying Savlon antiseptic ointment around the base of the fixtures. You will need to continue doing this indefinitely, to keep the area clean and prevent bacterial over-growth.