The maxilla is the upper portion of the jaw bone. Surgery to remove the maxilla is called a maxillectomy. It can be used to treat cancer of the oral cavity (inside the mouth), nasal cavity (inside the nose) and/or maxillary sinuses (pockets located in the bones of the face).

types of maxilla:maxillectomy

There are several different types of maxillectomy:
  • Medial maxillectomy: the part of the maxilla that is next to the nose is removed. This can be done in one of two ways: an incision on the face or using tools inserted through the nostril. Reconstructive surgery is not often needed.
  • Infrastructure maxillectomy: removes the hard palate (roof of the mouth), lower portion of the maxilla and teeth. It does not require the removal of the orbital floor (bone below eye). Reconstructive surgery is often needed.
  • Suprastructure maxillectomy: the upper portion of the maxilla and orbital floor (bone below eye) is removed. In some cases the orbit (bone around eye) may be left in place. Due to the removal of the eye, reconstructive surgery is needed.
  • Subtotal maxillectomy: removes only part of the maxilla using some variation of the above procedures.
  • Total maxillectomy: removes the entire maxilla on one side (unilateral) as well as the hard palate and orbital floor (bone below eye). Reconstructive surgery, possibly with prosthetics, will be needed after this surgery.
  • Numbness.
  • Temporary tear duct damage, which can cause chronic tearing.
  • Epiphora, or watery eyes due to surgical swelling.
  • Vision changes.
  • Glue ear, or congestion in the ear canal.
  • Flap failure.
  • Bleeding.
  • Infection.

Recovery from a maxillectomy will depend on the extent of the procedure you have had. Often, a one to two week hospital stay is needed. In some cases, a temporary feeding tube may be needed to provide you with nutrition during and after the healing process.

You will be told how to care for your incisions and will be given any other instructions prior to leaving the hospital. You provider will talk to you about the need to change your diet, feeding tube care, tracheostomy care, as well as the need for rehabilitative and/or speech therapy.

Your medical team will discuss with you the medications you will be taking, such as those for pain, blood clot, infection, and constipation prevention and/or other conditions.

Your provider will talk to you about activity restrictions, which will depend on the surgery you had. Often, it is recommended that you:

  • Avoid strenuous activity for 2 weeks following surgery or until approved by your surgical team. This includes bending, lifting and/or straining.
  • Change your diet as directed. If you are able to eat and drink, it is often suggested that you avoid hot food/liquids because of the potential for facial numbness.
  • Shower as directed.
  • Brush teeth as directed. You should brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush and do saline irrigations of the nasal cavity as directed.