Lessya Kotelevskaya's reconstructive surgery rescheduled

Published on January 8, 2014

Lessya Kotelevskaya's reconstructive surgery has been rescheduled.

Dr. Jarrod Little, a UofL Physicians plastic and reconstructive surgeon, is helping repair the damage to Lessya's face and jaw after she was misdiagnosed in Kazakhstan with terminal cancer of the jawbone. (Read Lessya's story here.) She had her initial surgery with Dr. Little on Nov. 14 to install a tissue expander just underneath the skin of her neck to prepare the skin for her major reconstructive surgery, which was scheduled for Jan. 30.

On Jan. 5, she developed a fever, and came to see Dr. Little the next morning. Dr. Little determined that she had developed an infection at the site where the tissue expander was placed, and he removed it late that afternoon.

Dr. Little said they will wait three months for the infection to clear, then a new tissue expander will be inserted. It will remain for six to nine weeks, then Lessya will undergo the reconstructive surgery. No new date has been set, but it will likely be sometime in June or July. 

“There is always a risk of infection after surgery, and when you look at the numbers in medical literature, there is a very high rate of this happening when you use a tissue expander in the area of the head and neck,” Little said. “In Lessya’s case, this area had been highly irradiated and damaged by the cancer treatments, making it even more susceptible.

“So this is not uncommon. It is just a setback that will delay her surgery date. In the meantime, there are other things we can work on, such as stretching the muscles of her jaw at home. We are committed to Lessya’s success and her prognosis has not changed.”

Lessya went home shortly after the hour-long procedure and is doing well.

During the reconstructive surgery, Dr. Little will repair the damage by removing Lessya’s jawbone and creating a new one with a titanium implant and a piece of fibula from her leg. The expanded skin will then be used to cover the new jawbone and replace the unhealthy, heavily radiated skin on the side of her face. That surgery is expected to take between 12-20 hours.

Watch Dr. Little describe the initial surgery here and the reconstructive process here.