What is Eyelid Reconstruction?

Eyelid reconstruction is a surgical procedure to correct defects that typically arise from traumatic injury to the eye or after skin cancer removal on the eyelid. The surgery aims to preserve eyelid function and to improve its appearance.

The choice of reconstruction technique depends on the size and severity of the defect. If tissue loss is small to moderate, the wound may simply be sutured close. For larger defects, however, tissue from other parts of the body may be needed. Tissue may be taken (or harvested) from the ear, scalp, abdomen, roof of the mouth, inside of the check, or the eyelid itself.

The Hughes procedure and the Cutler-Beard procedure are reconstruction techniques that use eyelid tissue. In the Hughes procedure, a piece of neighboring tarsoconjunctival tissue is cut, slid onto the wound, and then sutured together. The tarsoconjunctiva is made up of the connective tissue that provides support to the eyelid, called tarsus, and the membrane covering the white of the eyes, called conjunctiva. This technique is suited for defects that are located on the sides of the eyelid. The Cutler-Beard procedure requires a thicker segment of tarsoconjunctival tissue and is used to repair defects in the center of the eyelid.

Eyelid reconstruction is commonly done at an outpatient facility. There will be bruising and swelling for about four to ten days following surgery. You should keep your head elevated, use cold compress, and apply antibiotic cream on your eyelid for the first few days. Strenuous activities must be avoided for four weeks, but you may be able to return to work after about a week.

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