A pioneering operation to regrow a woman’s jaw from her own skin and bone after she lost it from cancer has been branded a “significant success”.
Val had her entire lower jaw removed including her glands, chin, lower lip and part of her tongue after being diagnosed with cancer in 2015, leaving her unable to eat, drink or talk.
The 55-year-old from Wolverhampton eventually under went a pioneering surgical technique – known as distraction osteogenesis – to encourage her jaw to grow back after two previous attempts to reconstruct it failed.
This involved surgeons at trust’s maxillofacial service at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) fitting her with a facial frame to act as “scaffolding” around which her own bone and tissue can grow back.
Val has had two further operations including one last month to remove the frame, and was discharged on Thursday.
Doctors said 90mm of bone had grown since the operation in January 2018 – and branded the procedure a “significant success”.
Val said it had been a “leap of faith” to undergo the surgery – which was the first time it had been carried out in the UK.
She added: “Just over a year ago I was resigned to the fact I would have to wear a prosthetic chin for the rest of my life, but after one of our brainstorming sessions at my local hospital, when we joked about growing a new jawbone, it sparked an idea.
“It was a leap of faith as there were no guarantees it would work at all, but I had everything to gain and nothing to lose.
“It’s been a bumpy road, often painful and frustrating but throughout the maxillofacial team at QMC have given me their upmost support.
“Now there is an end in sight and although there is still a little way to go the results are more positive than I ever could have hoped for.”
Val hopes that following the success of her treatment, the procedure can be used for others with similar difficulties with confidence that it will change their lives for the better.
Dilip Srinvasin, clinical director for the Maxillofacial Service and Val’s surgeon, said: “The surgery was the first of its kind used in this way in the UK.
“Using pioneering techniques and specialist knowledge from both surgeons and the laboratory in Nottingham, we have managed to use a frame to reconstruct the lower jaw.
“Remarkably, 90mm of bone has grown back following Val’s surgery.”