Help - Neck Dissection & Forearm Free Flap

georgiasurfer Member Posts: 63 Member
edited January 2017 in Head and Neck Cancer #1

Greetings Warriors,

My husband had surgery last year to remove cancer that had invaded his upper jaw bone.  This left a hole between the roof of his mouth and sinus cavity. He has an obturator device to plug the hole. His major problem is severe trismus where he can barely open his mouth and eating is out of the question.  He's completed radiation, has his 1st scans and NED!  Yay, yay, yay!  

However....this trismus is a major problem. He is scheduled for surgery in April to have the hole fixed with a forearm free flap and release his jaw so he can open his mouth again. The surgery paper also note neck dissection. Can anyone let me know what we'll be looking at for recovery?  I have the gist of the hospital stay but am wondering about afterwards.  How long does the arm take to heal?  The neck?  How painful is it?  Just trying to prepare. I am going. To have family available to help for this surgery and want to try and set that up. I know everyone is different but if you could just give me a general idea I'd appreciate it. 

He actually made it thru 1st surgery and treatment only losing 10 pounds but then started losing rapidly so had to get a feeding tube 2 months post treatment. Thank goodness he's getting stronger and goal is to get his mouth open and get busy with life again. Thanks everyone!!


  • georgiasurfer
    georgiasurfer Member Posts: 63 Member
    Can anyone help?

    Can anyone help?

  • Bart T
    Bart T Member Posts: 57 Member
    edited January 2017 #3

    Sounds like hubby has been through quite a lot already. I can only comment on the neck dissection surgery. I had a neck dissection at the same time I had a hemiglossectemy for tongue cancer. Since I had both at the same time, it’s a bit hard to fully isolate the my neck surgery from the tongue surgery, but the pain and discomfort from the neck was much less severe and lasted a much shorter time than tongue.

    Initially there was a very nasty looking set of stitches and a scar, but the stitches were removed about a week after the surgery, and the scar has healed to the point that it is barely noticeable. I’d say it took about 8 weeks before the scar faded to the point where it wasn’t the first thing you noticed when I walked into the room. As to the pain, it was very tolerable. As to recovery, I remember going back to playing tennis about two or three weeks post surgically, with the only effect being I had some pain in my upper chest and shoulder on my serve and overhead shots.

    Overall, at least for me, the combined surgeries was a day at the park compared to the radiation that followed. Sorry I have no insights or thoughts into the other surgeries, but my guess is the neck dissection will be the “easiest” part of the procedure. The only other comment I would offer is to press the surgeon for honest answers to your questions and concerns. I found that my surgeon was very good about painting a realistic picture of how things would go for me post-surgically.

     If you want to see pictures of my neck at the one week and the four week mark, go the expressions section of my profile, click on video presentations, and then click the YouTube links. I wish you both the best. 

  • lornal
    lornal Member Posts: 428
    Neck dissection & flap

    I have had both.  The neck dissection wasn't bad.  I had one in 2007 on the right - no feeling afterwards there (and still don't) so wasn't uncomfortable to sleep (that was my biggest concern).  There could be stiffness and aches.  But healing was not bad or painful.  The left was done in 2014 - but was done from the inside - so hardly any scarring from that.

    2014 I had a total Laryngectomy.  I had the forearm flap to rebuild my throat.  I was in the hospital for a couple weeks - sedated for 3 days (1 surgery + 2 more) so the reconstruction site and skin grafts could get a good start at healing.  As I am writing this, I now cannot think of all the details - that is good.  But, it was completely bandaged and in a splint for at least a week & a half.  Then, when I went home, I had a splint and had to change the bandages daily - that was not pleasant - but I don't recall it actually hurting - just extremely ugly.  I had to wear the splint at least a month or so.  Then, when it came off - had to excersice my hand.  I think the doctor wanted it to be covered when I went out for a while - no problem - it was winter - so I had long sleeves.  The thigh, were they got the skin for the arm graft - was by far more uncomfortable as it healed because of the scabbing - and then the itching.  Clothes were uncomformtable.

    All in all - well worth it - I'm alive - and I can eat again!

    Lorna 2007 & 2014