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UK-first pioneering surgery which featured on BBC ‘Hospital’ documentary a success

The national watched in awe in 2018 as surgeons from Nottingham’s centre of excellence for maxillofacial surgery did a never-done-before technique on Series Three of the award-winning BBC ‘Hospital’ documentary, which featured Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH).

55-year-old Val, from Wolverhampton, found a lump between her tongue in 2015, and after being diagnosed with cancer had her entire lower jaw removed, including her glands, chin, lower lip and part of her tongue. This changed Val’s life and made her a different person to the one she was before cancer, unable to eat, drink or talk and little quality of life. Speaking on ‘Hospital’ in 2018, Val explained: “I used to be quite outgoing. I was a post lady before, I loved my job. I've had to pretty much stop everything.”

After two previous attempts to reconstruct the jaw had failed at other centres, a pioneering surgery technique, known as distraction osteogenesis (to encourage her jaw to grow back), took place at QMC in Nottingham.

Val has had two further operations since featuring on ‘Hospital’ (one in May 2018 and one just two weeks ago), which has involved 12 hours in theatre over the last 12 months. This has involved Val being fitted with a facial frame to act as 'scaffolding' around which her own bone and tissue can grow back. This has been a big success, with the bone growing constantly since the operation in January 2018, which was filmed during the ‘Hospital’ documentary.

And the end result is what Val, her family and the rest of the country had hoped for ….. a significant success.

Dilip Srinvasin, Clinical Director for the Maxillofacial Service at NUH and Val’s surgeon, said: “The surgery was the first of its kind used in this way in the UK. Using pioneering techniques and specialist knowledge from both surgeons and the laboratory in Nottingham, we have managed to use a frame to reconstruct the lower jaw. Remarkably, 90mm of bone has grown back following Val’s surgery.”

Val said: “Just over a year ago I was resigned to the fact I would have to wear a prosthetic chin for the rest of my life, but after one of our brainstorming sessions at my local hospital, when we joked about growing a new jawbone, it sparked an idea and I was referred to Mr Srinivasan who was pioneering such a treatment.

“It was a leap of faith as there were no guarantees it would work at all, but I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. It’s been a bumpy road, often painful and frustrating but throughout the maxillofacial team at QMC have given me their upmost support.

“Now there is an end in sight and although there is still a little way to go the results are more positive than I ever could have hoped for.”

Val hopes that following the success of her treatment, the procedure can be used for others with similar difficulties with confidence that it will change their lives for the better, as it did for her.

Christine, Val’s sister, said: “The journey overall has been a difficult, but very exciting one, not only for Val but for us too. As her family to see the difference between now and when Val first came to the hospital the outcome is looking fantastic.”

After a two week stay in hospital following her latest surgery, Val is today being discharged from hospital in Nottingham.