What can I expect after jaw surgery?

Mr Heliotis describes some of the more common risks and complications of orthognathic surgery and the normal recovery pathway

Video Transcript

Are there any risks involved with this type of surgery?

The main problem that I tell patients about - a permanent problem per se which I emphasise - is the possibility of numbness to the lip or to the chin - where certain areas of the lip may go numb profoundly or very lightly. The risk for this is up to 30% in that some part of the lip may be a little bit numb. However, from audits that we do and throughout my career I carry out these retrospective audits from patients, if you ask people 8 months down the line 'is your lip numb?', they either have to think about it and they say 'yes, but it doesn't bother me' or they actually bite themselves just to check whether they are numb. In fact, it never bothers anyone. I have never come across a single patient where it has interfered with their quality of life.


Being an operation to the face there will be swelling of course, which is noticeable particularly the next day. Patients normally come in on the day and get discharged the next day, 90% of patients, so they go home - but the swelling is there for about 2 - 4 weeks. However, in the first two weeks, after two weeks, 50% of the swelling comes down dramatically. Of course people cannot chew and eat properly initially, but I encourage them to start rice and pasta after 2 or 3 days. I have had patients who have had a full English breakfast the next day. They are more the exception of course. What people notice is the swelling. After about another 2 weeks the swelling goes down by another 10 - 20%. After another 2 weeks about another 10%. So by about 6 weeks people are sort of 80% back to normal. There are no scars per se that you can see except on the outside on the cheek there is a tiny hole that I place here and here which you do not see after two weeks.