If you’ve had cancer surgery that altered your appearance or functionality, experienced injury, trauma, a congenital abnormality, or even a deeply infected wound, you might have been advised to have a consultation with a reconstructive plastic surgeon to see if you qualify for a specialized procedure known as microsurgery.

This probably left you wondering—what exactly does this type of surgery entail?

Micro does not stand for minor, and the impact of microsurgery is anything but small. The context of the word “micro” in microsurgery simply means that this specialized form of plastic surgery deals with tiny microstructures like blood vessels and nerves.

Microsurgery is a specialized surgery that is very different from traditional surgery. Microsurgery allows very skilled reconstructive plastic surgeons to use precise, modern surgical techniques that can profoundly impact a patient’s aesthetics and quality of life.

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about microsurgery and other reconstructive procedures and how they are being used to save lives and improve quality of life in ways that traditional surgery cannot.

What is Microsurgery?

Microsurgery is a special type of surgery that combines advanced technology with advanced reconstructive surgical skills to provide patients with the best possible outcomes for complex medical issues.

Whether it’s reconstructing tissue after losing a limb or body part, correcting a congenital abnormality, wound reconstruction, or reconstructing breasts after a mastectomy, microsurgery is a solution for many complex medical cases where traditional surgery might fall short.

During reconstructive microsurgery, skilled plastic surgeons handle, repair, or reconstruct nerves, blood vessels, and tissues that are very small– some as thin as a millimeter. They use special instruments with ultra-fine tips and high-magnification microscopes to carefully detach tissue from one part of the body and reconnect it somewhere else.

This process, known as “free-tissue transfer,” often involves reconnecting arteries and veins to ensure the tissue gets enough blood flow to stay alive. Depending on what parts of the body are involved and what needs to be done, these surgeries can take hours.

Microsurgery has been around for many decades, but in recent years, it has advanced to the point where these delicate procedures are now used in multiple areas of surgery. While it is becoming more widely used, microsurgery isn’t something every surgeon can perform.

Reconstructive microsurgery is a highly specialized skill mainly used in the field of plastic surgery. But even within plastic surgery, not all plastic surgeons are trained in microsurgery. We will discuss the training and skills a plastic surgeon should have to perform microsurgeries a little further down.

Common Reconstructive Microsurgery Procedures

As mentioned, microsurgery is widely used, and there are many complex medical situations where microsurgery is the preferred treatment path.

Here are a few of the most common instances where microsurgery is used in the field of reconstructive plastic surgery:

Microsurgery for Breast Reconstruction After Cancer

Following a mastectomy, a surgical procedure to remove one or both breasts, many women consider breast reconstruction. They’re presented with options, including artificial implants or autologous reconstruction, which involves microsurgical techniques.

The most common microsurgery for breast reconstruction is called “deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap. During the surgery, abdominal tissue, fat, and blood vessels are taken from the abdomen and used to recreate the breast.

The blood vessels that are removed and reattached in the breast are 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter, which requires the expertise of a plastic surgeon qualified in performing such microsurgeries.

Microsurgery on Hands/Fingers

For many years, in cases of severe hand or finger injuries, amputation was the only option. Microsurgery allows reconstructive plastic surgeons to save hands and fingers, aesthetically restore function and repair hands and fingers using precise techniques to reconnect blood vessels and nerves.

Microsurgery on Feet/Toes

Microsurgery isn’t just for hands—the same technique is used to restore function and repair feet and toes. Whether it’s reattaching a toe, repairing damaged blood vessels, or restoring sensation, microsurgery can repair foot injuries and deformities, helping patients get back on their feet (literally).

Microsurgery for Damaged Limbs (Arms/Legs)

When limbs like arms and legs suffer severe trauma, microsurgery can often save them. Plastic surgeons can often repair blood vessels and nerves, restoring blood flow and sensation. This can range from reconstructing shattered bones to restoring lost tissue.

Microsurgery for Facial, Head, or Neck Damage

Facial congenital disabilities and injuries from accidents, dog bites, burns, or other traumas can be devastating. These types of injuries often require the skills of a reconstructive plastic surgeon who specializes in microsurgery in order to restore form and function while also ensuring positive aesthetic outcomes, ensuring patients regain not only function but also confidence in their appearance.

Microsurgery for Complex Wound Reconstruction

Microsurgery can be a great solution for wounds that can not be addressed with traditional treatment. Reconstructive plastic surgeons trained in microsurgery can transplant tissue from elsewhere in the body, promoting healing and minimizing scarring. Whether it’s a chronic ulcer or a traumatic injury that caused a severe open wound, microsurgery can help complex wounds heal from the inside out.

Microsurgery for Other Nerve Repair and Grafting

When nerves are damaged, microsurgery can help restore function. Surgeons can delicately reconnect nerves or use grafts to bridge gaps, promoting healing and helping patients regain sensation. Whether it’s a traumatic injury or a congenital condition, microsurgery helps damaged nerves recover and reconnect.

Microsurgery for Congenital Abnormalities

If someone was born with a congenital abnormality such as a cleft lip or hand deformity, microsurgery is often the suggested surgical procedure to improve both aesthetics and functionality. Surgeons can use precise microsurgery techniques to reshape tissues and repair defects, improving function and appearance.

Is Microsurgery Covered by Insurance?

Because microsurgery is often deemed a medical necessity, there is a high chance at least some of the costs will be covered by insurance. That said, insurance coverage largely depends on your specific insurance plan and the reason for the procedure.

Generally, if microsurgery is deemed medically necessary—for example, for breast reconstruction after mastectomy—it’s more likely to be covered by insurance. However, it’s essential to check with your insurance provider beforehand to understand what costs are covered and what you may be responsible for.

Additionally, some insurers may require pre-authorization or documentation to demonstrate the medical necessity of the procedure.

Are There Any Negatives to Microsurgery?

Microsurgery has a long list of benefits, including precise tissue repair, enhanced aesthetic outcomes, and improved functionality that is not possible with traditional surgery. By utilizing modern technology and meticulous surgical skills, microsurgery can achieve results that were once thought impossible.

Despite the numerous benefits associated with microsurgery, you should at least be aware of any potential drawbacks. Of course, microsurgery also carries the risks of complications that any surgical procedure would have. These can include infection, bleeding, and damage to surrounding tissues. However, the risk of these things happening isn’t any higher with microsurgery than it is with traditional surgery.

One additional concern with reconstructive microsurgery is the complexity and duration of the procedures, which may lead to longer operating times and recovery periods compared to conventional surgery.

Additionally, the intricate nature of microsurgery requires a high level of expertise, which may limit access to these procedures for some people. If you live in the Nashville, TN, area or are willing to travel, you are in luck. The Surgical Clinic has a plastic surgery division with several board-certified plastic surgeons trained in reconstructive microsurgery.

Overall, while microsurgery may present a few small challenges, its significant benefits outweigh any negatives.

Can Any Plastic Surgeon Perform Reconstructive Microsurgery?

While many plastic surgeons are skilled in cosmetic procedures, not all are trained in reconstructive microsurgery. Reconstructive microsurgery requires additional specialized training and expertise beyond traditional plastic surgery.

Surgeons who specialize in reconstructive microsurgery undergo extensive training to master the specialized skills needed for procedures like tissue transplantation and nerve repair. They work closely with patients who require reconstruction due to trauma, cancer, or congenital abnormalities to restore both function and aesthetics.

In contrast, cosmetic cosmetic plastic surgeons primarily focus on enhancing appearance through procedures like breast augmentation or facelifts. While they may have some experience with reconstructive techniques, their expertise is in cosmetic procedures rather than the complex challenges of reconstructive microsurgery.

If you’re considering reconstructive microsurgery, it’s crucial to seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon with specific expertise in this area. They can provide personalized care to address your unique medical needs while ensuring the best possible outcomes for both function and aesthetics.

To learn more, read “Where Reconstructive Surgery Meets Plastic Surgery.” 

Reconstructive Plastic Surgeons that Perform Microsurgery in Middle Tennessee

Having a skilled reconstructive plastic surgeon is essential when it comes to microsurgeries. These procedures require a delicate touch and intricate techniques to achieve functional restoration and aesthetically pleasing results.

At The Surgical Clinic, our team of plastic surgeons, including Dr. Robert Garza, Dr. Dwayne Lett, and Dr. Maelee Yang, is dedicated to excellence in reconstructive and aesthetic/cosmetic procedures in Nashville, TN. They bring a wealth of experience in handling complex reconstructive cases, ensuring that patients receive comprehensive care tailored to their unique needs.

Choosing The Surgical Clinic means you don’t have to compromise between reconstructive and cosmetic surgery expertise. Our team is committed to providing the highest level of care in both specialties, giving you peace of mind knowing that you’re in capable hands for any microsurgical procedure.

Click here to learn more about our plastic surgeon division and book your consultation with one of our reconstructive microsurgery specialists.