What Is Making My Cheek Implant Move When I Blow My Nose?

Q: Dr. Eppley, my husband had maxillofacial surgery for an under bite and put cheek implants in to balance his facial features about five years ago. He has had problems with the left cheek implant moving slightly and when he blows his nose his left cheek gets swollen and you can feel bubble like things moving around implant. It has caused him a lot of pressure and pain and this happens more often. I have begged him to go to the Dr but the entire experience of the surgery has traumatized him and so I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong. Please help me try to help my husband.

A:  Undoubtably what your husband is experiencing is what one may call a ‘blowhole’ in the simplest of terms. When a maxillary osteotomy (LeFort I osteotomy) is done, the bone cut across the upepr jaw exposes the entire maxillary sinus. While most osteotomy lines experience complete bony healing afterwards, some do not particularly larger maxillary advancements and those that may have been vertically elongated. Any large unhealed bony openings allows air to escape from the maxillary sinus up into the cheek facial area, particularly when the air is forced such as blowing one’s nose. A cheek implant may be laying right next to or even over the original osteotomy line. This air being forced into and around a cheek implant (if it is not secured with a screw) make make it move slightly from the air pressure. Air into the subcutaneous tissues of the face is known as crepitus, which you more commonly call ‘bubbles’.

Thus there is a bony hole right next to the cheek implant as the culprit of all of these symptoms. This is a relatively easy problem to fix by covering the bone hole (sealing the sinus from the face) and stabilizing the implant to the bone with a screw. This is a simple outpatient procedure done under general anesthesia with minimal recovery. The only question is what to use to seal the bone hole as a variety of materials can be used to accomplish that end.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana