Reconstructive Surgery


To start with, what does reconstructive surgery mean? In its broadest sense, reconstructive surgery is a type of plastic surgery. The main thing that differentiates this type of surgery from the cosmetic procedures that people normally think of when discussing plastic surgery is that a procedure that is reconstructive in nature has a higher degree of medical necessity. Rather than being used to remove hair, strengthen sagging skin, or provide a similar subtle change in appearance, reconstructive surgery is designed to fix something that has been damaged. This could include replacing a breast following a cancer-related mastectomy, fixing an abnormality in the palate, and much more.

Some reconstructive surgery examples include the following procedures:

  • Breast reconstruction following mastectomy
  • Cleft lip and palate repair
  • Correction of congenital birth anomalies
  • Gender confirmation surgery
  • Skin grafts following a burn or other major external damage
  • Correction of a deviated septum
  • Facial reconstructive surgery following a car accident or other major trauma
  • Treatment for lymphedema
  • Skin cancer removal

Reconstructive Surgery versus Plastic Surgery

Is reconstructive surgery the same as plastic surgery? From a technical standpoint, yes. However, it is important to note that plastic surgery does not automatically mean cosmetic surgery. The difference lies between what an insurance provider considers to be elective and what is deemed medically necessary. Reconstructive surgery deals specifically with people who fall into one of two categories: either they have experienced some sort of medical emergency that requires reconstruction or they were born with a correctable genetic abnormality. The former category includes burn victims, people who have been injured in a car accident, and cancer patients. The latter category includes people with birth defects, palate problems, abnormal head shapes, and other birth-related abnormalities.

It is important to note that the line between reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery can sometimes seem very fine. If, for example, you are unsatisfied with some part of your appearance, whether surgery to correct that counts as medically necessary or not can often boil down to how common the problem is and whether you can function normally without fixing it. Doctors who are trained in reconstructive surgery often have a knowledge of cosmetic surgery as well, although their practice interests might keep them from doing as much with it. The final arbiter of what counts as reconstructive and what is considered cosmetic often comes down to the doctor’s educated opinion and the final decision from the insurance provider as to whether the procedure will be covered.

Reconstructive Rhinoplasty

Rhinoplasty is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures for both cosmetic purposes and reconstructive surgeries. But what is reconstructive nose surgery? Most of the time, reconstructive rhinoplasty falls into one of two categories: either a way to restore the nose after trauma or a method to deal with a long-term problem that stems from genetic abnormalities or birth defects.

Trauma to the nose can come from virtually anywhere. For most people, the nose is the largest extremity on the face, which means any impact to the facial area can damage or break a nose. While a broken nose can often be set and healed without surgery, a bone that doesn’t set properly could leave a person with a deviated septum or other issue that could create breathing problems. Any major broken bone in the nose area causes a lot of bleeding beneath the skin, so you can expect to see bruising around the eyes after a broken nose. A doctor can tell you through a visual checkup if the damage is serious enough to need reconstructive surgery or if it will heal naturally.

Long-term problems can include a deviated septum that occurred at birth or which developed as the patient’s body grew and changed. This form of reconstructive surgery often happens when a person is still young so they can go on to live a normal life. On occasion, however, a minor problem that was easy to deal with as an adolescent turns into a major problem as an adult. If you experience breathing problems or discomfort, you should speak with a doctor at your earliest opportunity. Not every issue requires a surgical procedure, but plastic surgery exists specifically to help make sure that people remain comfortable and happy in their day to day lives.

Side Effects of Reconstructive Surgery

Like any other surgical procedure, reconstructive surgery comes with its share of potential side effects and drawbacks. But exactly? These depend largely upon the procedure which you undergo. Naturally, less invasive surgery tends to have fewer side effects than longer and more involved procedures. The biggest danger often comes from problems dealing with the anesthesia, as some people have allergies to the medication used which they don’t know about. Other side effects often relate to the recovery from the procedure. While some cannot be helped, others can be reduced in severity by following doctor’s orders during the recovery process.

Some common side effects from reconstructive surgery of all types include the following:

  • Problems with anesthesia
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Swelling and pain
  • Slow healing
  • Fatigue

The biggest risk following any medical procedure is often infection. If you notice an intense reddening of your wound site, an odd smell coming from beneath the bandages, or the presence of pus, you should speak with your doctor right away. Failure to deal with an infection properly can lead to a loss in sensation around your wound site or even more major problems such as tissue death and necrosis.

Fortunately, doctors work very hard to make sure that most of these side effects are reduced or eliminated entirely. In the case of infections in particular, medical centers and surgery offices take special care to eliminate the problem at its source. While no surgery is ever truly free of the risk of infection, the use of certain antibiotics and rigorous cleaning procedures helps to reduce the infection rate to as small a percentage as possible.

Cost of Reconstructive Surgery

The cost of a reconstructive surgery procedure varies widely depending on the procedure and the circumstances. Different medical centers sometimes use different pricing models, and lengthier surgeries obviously cost more in terms of the final bill. Moreover, the reconstructive surgery cost may increase during the recovery period if complications occur. A skin graft that fails following reconstructive surgery for burns, for example, can require additional post-operative care or even a new surgery entirely to repair the damage done.

Focusing solely on the most common reconstructive surgeries and the average pricing throughout North America, skin grafts often cost between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on how extensive the damage area is. Breast reconstruction following a mastectomy can cost between $5,000 and $10,000. Surprisingly to many, reconstructive rhinoplasty lands near the top of the cost sale, typically running in excess of $10,000. Because the nose and septum are so essential to proper breathing, this procedure often involves more extensive work and a longer recovery period.

Virtually all reconstructive surgery is medically necessary and can thus be covered by insurance. If for some reason your insurance doesn’t cover a reconstructive procedure, you should consider speaking with your surgical office to see if they can do anything to help. On occasion, a doctor’s office might be able to deal with the insurance company directly or arrange some sort of financing opportunity for you.

Is Reconstructive Surgery Right for You?

Whether you need reconstructive surgery depends on several factors:

  • Do you have an injury or deformity that prevents you from living a comfortable life?
  • Has a recent accident altered your appearance?
  • Did a disease such as cancer cost a part of your body that you wish to have back?

If you answered “yes” to any of the three questions above, then reconstructive surgery might help you. The first step is to reach out to a doctor who you trust. From there, you will likely receive a referral to a reconstructive surgeon who can outline the full reconstruction process as well as its risks and alternatives.

Reconstructive surgery is based on the same foundation as cosmetic procedures, butprovides different benefits. Like cosmetic surgery, it can improve self-image and provide lifestyle benefits. Unlike cosmetic procedures, reconstructive surgery is often necessary and something that you can’t delay until you have saved up the money. Fortunately, insurance does cover most of these procedures. Just be sure to communicate with your medical team and use the questions and answers provided above as a guide.

Kristina Zakhary Medical Corp.

" Dr. Zakhary was amazing and very up front about the procedure. She answered all my questions in detail. Dr.Zakhary never made me feel rushed, she always took her time to make me feel confident in the procedure and in her. "

Mary B.

5.0 5.0