Facial Trauma Repair: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

Facial trauma repair is surgery to fix an injury to the face or jaw. The surgery may have been done to stop bleeding, repair damaged tissue, or fix broken bones.

Your face may be swollen and bruised. It may take 5 to 7 days for the swelling to go down, and 10 to 14 days for the bruising to fade. It may be hard to eat at first.

If you have stitches, the doctor may need to remove them about a week after surgery.

It will probably take a few months for you to heal after surgery. Your face may look different than it did before your injury. Sometimes more surgery is needed later to help make your face look as close to how it did before the injury as possible.

When you can return to work depends on the injury you had and what type of work you do. You may be able to go back to work in 1 to 2 weeks.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover. Sleep with your head up by using two or three pillows. You can also try to sleep with your head up in a reclining chair.
  • Avoid any activity that might re-injure your face or jaw, until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for cleaning your teeth and mouth.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take at least 1 to 2 weeks off from work. But you may need to take longer off work, depending on your injury and the type of work you do.

Diet

  • Follow your doctor's advice about what you can eat. You may need to eat a soft diet, or you may have to drink your meals through a straw.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your pain medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • If you have an incision, or cuts or scrapes on your face, wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry.
  • Your doctor may give you other instructions about how to care for your incision. Follow your doctor's instructions exactly.

Ice

  • Put ice or a cold pack on your face or jaw for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this 3 or more times a day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Other instructions

  • If your jaw is wired shut, keep wire cutters with you at all times in case you throw up. Your doctor will show you how to use them.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You are bleeding from the incision.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You have trouble talking or swallowing.
  • Your mouth is bleeding.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: October 13, 2016