Q: Several years ago I was involved in a cycling accident in which I landed on my face and broke a lot of my facial bones, including my jaw, nose and cheeks. My face was initially reconstructed and looked quite good, almost like it was before the accident. But after 6 months, I began to notice that my cheeks looked a little flat. This appears to have gotten worse and now they look even flatter than a year ago. I don’t like to look at myself in pictures because I look so flat in my face. I know that swelling does take many months to go away but this seems more than just swelling. Why has this happened and what can I do about it? Do you think cheek implants would be a good idea? Wouldn’t they be hard to get due to scar and the metal plates that were used to fix the bones back together?
A: It is not uncommon after extensive facial fracture repair that particularly involves the cheeks, that there is cheek flattening with time. This can happen due to the cheeks not being put back to their original projection or can even happen with the most accurate realignment of the fractured bone segments. This is the result of underlying soft tissue atrophy, particularly the fat which is very sensitive to trauma. As a result fat dies (atrophies) over time. This may make the cheek prominence, which initially looked good, become flatter as the face heals up to a year or so after the injury. Cheek implants can be a good secondary reconstructive procedure. It is important to get the right style and size of cheek implants to get a good result. It would be expected that there would be scar and even some plates and screws in the path of re-entry over the cheeks but this does not prevent the secondary placement of cheek implants.
Dr. Barry Eppley