Surgeons restore defender’s jaw in Lviv

For the first time, the maxillofacial surgeons of the UNBROKEN Centre performed a complex microsurgical operation to reconstruct the lower jaw of a serviceman on their own – without the help of foreign colleagues.

The defender, who went to the front as soon as he came of age, had been waiting for this operation for almost two years.

Andriy Grushko, 25, is from the village of Chkalove, Kherson region. He is a tractor driver by profession, but he has never worked in this field. As soon as he turned 18, Andriy decided to join the army. At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, he served in the Donetsk region. There, on 12 March 2022, a fragment of a Russian shell shattered the young soldier’s jaw and almost took his life.

“It was an ordinary day at the front. We were holding our positions and keeping an eye on the enemy. I was looking through binoculars when it hit. The blast wave deafened me. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t orientate myself in space, I didn’t even realise what had happened,” Andriy shares the circumstances of his injury.

A piece of ammunition tore off half of Andriy’s face. His comrades managed to stop the massive bleeding and evacuate the heavily wounded soldier. Then came almost two years of treatment in various medical institutions in Ukraine, the last of which was the National Rehabilitation Centre NESLAMNI. Andriy was admitted here for surgery to reconstruct his lower jaw. Due to the absence of a part of the bone and teeth, the young man could not eat normally: chew and eat solid food. To fix this, our surgeons inserted a titanium implant into the defender’s jaw. However, unfortunately, it did not take root.

The only other way to help the patient was to replace the missing fragment with his own bone. This is one of the most difficult operations in maxillofacial surgery. For the bone to take root, it is necessary to jewellery a bunch of small vessels – only as thick as a human hair. Lviv specialists, together with their American colleagues from the FACE to FACE mission, have successfully performed such microsurgical interventions many times before. For example, at the end of last autumn, they operated on more than 10 soldiers with similar injuries. The experience gained allowed the Lviv maxillofacial surgeons to take on such a complex reconstructive surgery on their own – without the help of foreign specialists. The first patient was Andriy.

A team of doctors led by Head of the Head and Neck Centre Oleh Kovtuniak took a part of the tibia along with muscles and blood vessels and transplanted it into the defender’s jaw. The doctors managed to successfully suture all the vessels. Then the surgeons closed the wound with a flap of the patient’s own skin. This complex microsurgical operation lasted 14 hours. The bone took root, and two weeks after the restoration of his face, Andriy was able to go to his wife and young son.

“Life is a very precious thing, especially when you are on the verge of death. That’s why I don’t want to remove the scars and grind the scar, so that I don’t forget the value of every moment,” says the defender.

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