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February 18, 2009 > Facial Reconstruction Can Improves Patients' Lives

Facial Reconstruction Can Improves Patients' Lives

Washington Hospital Seminar Examines Procedures that Restore Appearance and Function

Our appearance often affects how we feel about ourselves. That doesn't mean you have to look like you just stepped out of a fashion magazine to feel good about yourself. But repairing deformities - like the kind that result from birth defects, injuries or skin cancer - can go a long way toward restoring self-confidence. And some facial reconstruction, like nose surgery, can also help you breathe easier.

"How we look is an important part of who we are," said Dr. Jason Van Tassel, a Washington Hospital physician who specializes in head and neck surgery, including facial plastic reconstructive surgery. "For example, repairing facial defects after skin cancer can really improve a patient's outlook on life."

He will present an upcoming seminar titled, "Ear, Nose and Throat Problems: Facial Defects, Surgical Reconstruction." The seminar is scheduled for Tuesday, March 3, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, MD Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register, call (800) 963-7070.

Van Tassel will talk about a number of procedures that are available, including rhinoplasty or nose surgery. Rhinoplasty can improve not only the look, but also the function of the nose.

Nose surgery can change the size of your nose, nose width at the bridge, the size and position of the nostrils, and nose profile by minimizing humps, bumps or depressions on the bridge. It can also reshape the nasal tip, and improve the appearance of wide or upturned nostrils.

From a functional standpoint, it can correct breathing problems that result from a deviated septum (the wall between the nostrils), birth defect or injury.

"I will discuss some of the new frontiers in rhinoplasty," Van Tassel said.
Skin Cancer Repair

Skin cancers such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common forms of cancer in the United States. Van Tassel will discuss some of the procedures available to repair defects in the face after skin cancer treatment. Often skin cancer patients must endure the removal of portions of their face to get rid of cancerous cells and prevent the disease from spreading.

"This can really be devastating for skin cancer patients," Van Tassel said.

He will discuss the use of grafts and flaps. Using tissue from one area of the body to repair another area is called a graft. Skin grafts, for example, use skin taken from the thigh, stomach or other area to repair missing skin on the face. Larger defects, like the removal of the nose, can be repaired with cartilage grafts, using cartilage from the ear or the rib. A flap involves using the surrounding skin and soft tissue to repair a deeper hole.

Van Tassel will also discuss ear plastic surgery, called otoplasty. It is often used to set big ears back or closer to the head to reduce their prominence. Ear surgery can also be used to repair a number of deformities, including "lop ear," when the top of the ear seems to fold down and bend forward, and "cauliflower ear," when the outer ear becomes permanently swollen due to injury.

"I also see patients who have ear deformities from earrings," Van Tassel said. "The earrings stretch the ear lobe and leave large holes that have to be repaired."

To learn more about reconstructive facial surgery and get your questions answered by a board-certified reconstructive plastic surgeon, register for the seminar by calling Washington Hospital's Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070.

Washington Hospital has more than 350 physicians on staff representing a broad range of specialties. To find a physician, visit For more information about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, visit

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