Teesside and North Yorkshire’s biggest hospital trust is shining a spotlight on the work of the region’s specialist oral and maxillofacial (OMFS) surgery team who diagnose and treat conditions affecting the mouth, jaw, neck, cheekbones, forehead or face.
The highly specialised OMFS team at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust serves patients across Teesside, North Yorkshire and the wider region.
Working closely with colleagues in other specialties such as dental, ENT (ear, nose and throat), radiology and plastic surgery, the OMFS team look after patients with facial injuries, cancer affecting the mouth, head or neck, patients who were born with missing teeth or a jaw, and patients who require surgery to correct any malformation to the mouth and face.
A day in the life of a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon
Mhairi Little, who a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, invites you behind the scenes of one of her shifts.
Mhairi said: “My shift starts at 7.45am with a chance to review x-rays of patients with suspected facial fractures so I can arrange follow-ups with them. This includes a broken cheekbone which I arrange to see the following week.
“Next I attend a handover with the department’s dental core trainees and specialty trainees to go through the list of inpatients and review their progress over the past 24 hours so I can monitor their condition and decide whether any investigations or operations need doing.
“After this I head out onto the ward to see my inpatients who either I or my colleagues have recently operated on. These patients’ conditions can vary from life threatening dental abscesses to jaw fractures, as well as head and neck cancer patients and facial trauma patients.
“By now it’s 9am and it’s time to make my way to theatre for my first case of the day. I’m helping an oral surgeon who is taking a biopsy from their patient who has a large mass in their lower jaw.
“Next on my list is to supervise one of our registrars fixing a fractured cheekbone using incisions in the upper eyelid and in the mouth.
“It’s now 1pm and the morning has flown. I have an hour to quickly grab some lunch and triage referrals from dentists and GPs.
“My last procedure of the day is a young woman called Sabahat who has severe malocclusion, in simple terms an abnormal bite that couldn’t be corrected with braces alone. I conduct a Le Fort I advancement osteotomy which involves me cutting across the top jaw and separating it from the base of the skull. I then moved it forward to get the bite in a good position before fixing it in place with metal plates and screws. It went really well and only took about two hours.
“Since I’m on call, towards the end of my shift I meet up with the on call team so I’m fully up to date on any activity within the department in case I get called this evening. I’m told about a patient who is being transferred to us from another hospital that I might need to keep an eye on.
“Before I head home I go back over to the ward to double check on Sabahat who is recovering. She’s comfortable, her bite is looking good and she’s feeling well.
“It’s now 6pm and I can now head home but as I’m on call my shift definitely isn’t over so I can’t relax too much.
“An hour and 45 minutes later my phone buzzes; it’s the registrar updating me about the patient we were expecting from the other hospital. They’ve arrived and things aren’t as bad as we thought so they are able to care for the patient without my input.
“I put my phone back in my pocket in case I’m phoned again; I head off to bed and will be back at James Cook tomorrow for another 7.45am start.”