Jaw Reduction

Q: Dr. Eppley, I had a chin and jaw reduction ten days ago. It went well except that I have had worsening swelling each day after surgery.  Today, when I woke up with even larger swelling on the left, I went to the ER to check it out and the ER doc after examining me was concerned I had a hematoma or an infection and ordered a CT scan with contrast.  When the doc came back to my room he said the CT showed a large abscess on the left and a smaller one on the right and said I needed to get them drained. Then he consulted another plastic surgeon in the ER who looked at the CT and then called my plastic surgeon to consult him.  After consulting each other it was determined these were pockets of liquid that can be a complication of surgery and would eventually be reabsorbed so no need for drainage.  One determining factor was my WBC was normal however I just finished up my antibiotics yesterday. Also the ER doc sent me home on another week of antibiotics so I am wondering if he isn’t still somewhat concerned about possibility of an infection. So nothing is going to be done about the liquid pockets and the large one on the left is particularly bothersome and really has me concerned not only about the possiblity of infection as well as it is delaying my progress with recovery (worsened the swelling, discomfort, etc). 

I know that you do a lot of jaw reduction surgery and would so appreciate to get your opinion re: these pockets.  Should at least the large one be drained to reduce chance of infection and speed up my recovery?

A: Since you are within the first few weeks after surgery, these fluid pockets are either blood, serous fluid or a combination of blood. Bone when it is cut can ooze after surgery since it is hard tissue that does not have the capability of soft tissue contraction around the oozing exposed blood ‘channels’ and relies on compression of the overlying soft tissue on the bone (external wrap), an indwelling drain to pull off the fluid or just naturally stopping on its own. (which it may do if the bone removed is fairly superficial) Probably every facial bone reduction procedure gets a little bit of fluid which just naturally resorbs on its own within the first month after surgery.

Large (and it can be debated as to what constitutes large) pockets of fluid do have an increased risk of infection (good bacterial culture medium), can be uncomfortable when big enough and can prolong the recovery of one’s appearance and the final result because of increased resorption time. Draining them by needle aspiration or opening the incision and suctioning the fluid out can provide a prompt resolution to these concerns.

I can not tell you what you should do since you are not my patient for this surgery and that is between you and your surgeon.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana