Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Children who need plastic and reconstructive surgery require expert, individualized care that focuses on their unique needs as they grow. At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, our pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeons are specially trained in surgery for infants, children, and adolescents. Here, our surgeons are experienced in the full range of plastic and reconstructive procedures for congenital conditions (present at birth), acquired problems, and injuries.
Craniofacial and maxillofacial surgery encompasses surgery of the face, jaw, palate, and skull. Craniofacial surgery can help a wide variety of congenital disorders and other problems by reconstructing the missing or damaged skeleton, correcting deformities of the skull, closing the palate, and rebuilding facial features. The goal of craniofacial surgery is to improve appearance while also ensuring good function of the face, jaw, and skull.
Our craniofacial & maxillofacial team is comprised of experts from several pediatric specialties, including plastic and reconstructive surgeons, neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, ophthalmologists, dentists, geneticists, speech and language therapists, mental health experts, and radiologists. The Craniofacial Anomalies Multidisciplinary Program (CAMP) provides comprehensive, integrated care for children with craniosynostosis and other craniofacial disorders.
Some of the conditions our pediatric craniofacial & maxillofacial surgery team treats include:
- Cleft lip & cleft palate: Our surgeons are experienced in correcting all forms of cleft lip & cleft palate defects, working to establish normal feeding, speech, and appearance.
- Craniosynostosis: In craniosynostosis, the sutures--the connections between the bony plates of the skull--in an infant close too early, which can result in a misshapen head and pressure inside the skull. Treatment typically requires surgery to relieve pressure and restore head shape. Some cases of craniosynostosis are due to genetic syndromes like Apert syndrome and Crouzon syndrome, while other cases occur by chance (sporadically).
- Hemifacial microsomia: This condition causes one side of the face to not develop properly. Treatment usually requires an approach called distraction osteogenesis, which entails lengthening the facial bones with a device that is slowly adjusted over time to bring bones into the proper position. The device is then removed.
- Deformational or positional plagiocephaly: Plagiocephaly is a misshapen head due to repeated pressure to the same area of the head. Unlike craniosynostosis, plagiocephaly does not involve early closure of the sutures. Non-surgical treatments such as repositioning or wearing a specially designed helmet can restore head shape.
- Facial paralysis: Some syndromes, such as Bell's palsy, can cause partial paralysis of the face. Our pediatric plastic surgeons can perform facial reanimation by using nerve grafts and other techniques to improve facial movement and restore a child's ability to smile.
At Comer Children's, we take a multidisciplinary approach to treating large birthmarks, such as port wine stains and vascular malformations. Our pediatric surgeons work closely with pediatric dermatologists and other specialists to treat these problems. Many birthmarks can be successfully treated with laser therapy in an outpatient setting. Some very large birthmarks--known as congenital nevi--may require more sophisticated treatment using implantable balloons (tissue expanders) that expand tissue so that blemished skin can be removed in favor of birthmark-free skin.
Our surgeons have vast expertise in removing disfiguring hemangiomas and vascular malformations, including growths that may threaten normal breathing, eating, and vision. » Learn more about our interdisciplinary care for vascular anomalies.
Poland's syndrome and other conditions may result in the uneven or absent development of breast muscles and tissue. Plastic and reconstructive surgeons can greatly improve appearance by using implants and reconstructive surgery to fashion normal-looking breasts and nipples.
Teen girls with large breasts may benefit from breast reduction surgery. Male teens who develop enlarged breasts--called gynecomastia--can benefit from surgery to reduce breast and nipple size.
Congenital problems such as aural atresia and microtia result in absent, small, or abnormally formed ears. In a combined effort, our pediatric plastic surgeons and pediatric otolaryngologists work together to treat these conditions. Otolaryngologists focus on improving hearing while plastic surgeons can construct the external (outer) ear using cartilage and skin grafts and other techniques.
Children with abnormally protruding ears or misshapen ears may also benefit from plastic and reconstructive surgery to improve appearance.
Children with severe burns are treated at the University of Chicago Burn and Complex Wound Center, a multidisciplinary burn injury program accredited by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons. This special program is housed in an eight-bed intensive care unit dedicated to comprehensive burn care. Our pediatric plastic surgeons are an integral part of this center, and can provide skin grafting and cosmetic reconstruction to treat burns.
Traumatic injuries to the face may require a variety of treatments to restore appearance. Our plastic and reconstructive surgeons are experienced in reshaping bone and using implants to rebuild facial structures, as well as repairing soft tissue and skin.
Other traumatic injuries, including deep cuts and animal bites, can be treated with plastic surgery.
Our team can perform a variety of procedures to reduce the appearance of scars, including keloid scars.
Pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeons can perform a wide variety of aesthetic procedures to improve appearance. These procedures include rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), otoplasty (ear repositioning for prominent ears), and orthognathic surgery (jaw correction for jaw discrepancy and bite abnormalities), and genioplasty (chin repositioning surgery).
At Comer Children's, children undergoing plastic and reconstructive surgery and their families have access to support services including child and adolescent psychiatrists, social workers, and child life experts that can help ease children's fears and help families cope before and after surgery.
In addition to providing expert patient care, our pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeons are active in both clinical and laboratory research. Topics under study include wound healing, repair of craniofacial defects, tissue transplantation and tissue engineering, bone substitutes, survival of bone-cartilage grafts, and genetic expression in craniofacial development.