Mandible Reconstruction with Fibula Free Flap. Is this an option?
In cases of radiation to the jaw resulting in Osteoradionecrosis (radiation bone death) or Ameloblastoma or similar growths on the mandible, reconstruction surgery is sometimes recommended. The mandible (lower jaw bone) has become constantly infected, weak causing pain, teeth failing, habitually sore or troublesome, after radiation therapy often years in the past. Your doctors or dentists may be suggesting surgery. Ameloblastoma patients sometimes have little choice due to the tumor often embedded in the mandible itself. While there are options to mandible reconstruction, what works very well is replacement of the infected section with your own transplanted bone and tissue.
When replacing a mandible section with harvested bone, the bone section selected will have the blood supply attached (free flap) which will be reconnected to an existing artery to keep the bone alive. This allows for healing and complete attachment to the existing mandible. Mayo Clinic Rochester, one of only a few places in the world that perform this type of surgery, uses either a section of bone from the Fibula or from the hip or shoulder area. The Fibula is a flexible bone in the lower leg which is non-weight bearing and won’t be particularly missed.
Dr’s Arce and Ettinger among others in the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery group removed a section of my left fibula and surrounding tissue and fit that precisely into my left mandible along with peg inserts to support prosthetic teeth. 3-D models of my jaw were worked up and used as templates prior to surgery so that everything fit as necessary. The entire procedure for my end was about six hours of happy sleep. Recovery was a bit longer of roughly a week before I was released from hospital.
I had a feeding tube installed for nutrition and medication as well as a CAM-boot on my leg to promote healing. The feeding tube was removed after three weeks whilst the CAM-boot was probably gone after two. The healing while not comfortable was certainly manageable and I returned to work (restricted mostly to a desk) about four weeks after surgery.
Healing continued with return visits to Mayo for teeth prosthesis and to have my trach closed, which it did not do on it’s own because things like that happen to me. Nine months out I was eating corn on the cob for the first time in many years and walking without issue, miles per day. Now two years out, other than meticulously cleaning my teeth thrice-daily, I really have no issues with eating, talking, or walking. The healing was certainly much faster than the cancer treatments that proceeded this adventure twenty years prior.
Has anyone else been troubled by teeth or jaw since radiation or surgery? Has Mandible Reconstruction been considered?