Craniofacial surgery is a specialist area of surgery managing conditions in the head and skull, including the eyes, face, jaws and teeth, the nose, throat, neck, and ears.
At Alder Hey our team treats congenital problems (i.e present at birth) with head and facial growth. This includes craniosynostosis (where the skull bones may grow in an abnormal way because the different bones of the skull fuse together) and craniofacial syndromes (where growth of both the head and face are affected by bone fusion).
The NHS has designated Alder Hey as one of only four hospitals in England and Wales who have the required infrastructure, expertise and experience to treat these rare conditions.
Other conditions present at birth include hemifacial microsomia and Treacher Collins syndrome which primarily affect the face, ears, jaws and teeth.
We also treat head and facial injuries, and other rare conditions like tumours and cysts
Who is part of the craniofacial service?
Because the head, face and jaws are in such a complicated area, there are a number of clinicians with different specialties who are involved with the Craniofacial team.
Some of those roles include:
- Geneticist – as some of the conditions are passed on in the genes and it is often helpful to parents and patients to know about this
- Psychologist – to support parents and patients throughout their treatment
- Speech and Language Therapist –Some patients require help with language development and speaking. Speech and language therapists also help with feeding difficulties
- Orthodontist – to help with dental problems and provide brace treatment if needed
- Ophthalmologist – as the eyes can sometimes be affected by squints and other problems
- Ear Nose and Throat surgeon – to help with difficulties in hearing, and air passage problems
- Neurosurgeons – Many operations need neurosurgical input where the condition being treated affects the head
- Maxillofacial surgeon
- Plastic surgeon – The maxillofacial and plastic surgeons deal with skull, facial and jaw problems, and are specialists in techniques to correct deformity to improve both appearance and function of the bones and soft tissues of the face and jaws
- Craniofacial fellow – a surgeon in the final year of training, so that skills can be passed to the next generation of craniofacial surgeons
- Nurse specialists – nurses who are highly skilled and experienced in the day to day practicalities of caring for children with craniofacial conditions
- Coordinator – to liaise between parents and patients, team members and other departments, and arrange appointments and meetings, and ensure the service runs as smoothly as possible
Working with other departments and services
We often work closely with other teams and specialists at Alder Hey who have experience of craniofacial conditions. For example:
- Anaesthetists, Intensive care and High Dependency unit – so that complex operations can be carried out safely
- Respiratory physicians – who help to diagnose and treat breathing problems
- Cleft lip and palate team – as some patients may have a cleft palate as a part of their craniofacial condition
- Radiology – to help with diagnosis from X-rays and scans, and to treat some conditions such as growths involving blood vessels
- Microtia / ear reconstruction team – because some patients have lack of ear development with hearing and appearance difficulties