Today we met with another craniofacial surgeon to get an opinion about how Max is progressing after surgery. Despite hearing that we needed a repeat surgery from a specialist in Texas, we were both hoping to hear something different today.
The surgeon we saw today was very knowledgeable and very thorough. He actually trained our first surgeon, and told us that he has done around 1500 cranio repairs. His opinion was that Max's head wasn't corrected enough. He couldn't tell us for sure if his bones were shifting post-op, or if the swelling was just subsiding enough to show us the true shape of his forehead, but it was obvious to him that the results of the surgery weren't what they were supposed to be. In fact, he told us that when he first walked into the room and looked at Max, it looked as if Max had never had any surgery at all.
The frustrating thing about the visit with this surgeon is that he wouldn't recommend for or against surgery. He told us that it wouldn't get better from this point, and could possibly get worse. But he also told us that Max is at risk of developmental disabilities just by virtue of having metopic synostosis in the first place, and that doing a secondary correction doesn't decrease his likelihood of delays. (Fortunately as of now, Max is meeting all his milestones and progressing great!) He said that Max is not, as of now, in danger from increased intercranial pressure, and that he could help Max's eyes space out more with a second surgery. But he also told us that a second surgery is significantly more complicated, due to scar tissue, increased risk of bleeding and the fact that he would be undoing something another surgeon already did. Because his recovery was complicated previously by low sodium levels, there is a greater possibility we would be facing that again as well. So we have to weigh the risks of surgery against what we think the benefits would be.
I don't know how we are supposed to make a decision like this. How can I put my baby boy through another long, painful and risky procedure. But then again, I keep picturing how I would feel if Max came to me when he was 15 or 16 and told me he wished we would have fixed this when we had the chance. I worry about doing all this for "cosmetic" reasons. But the women I have talked to whose kids have all been through this keep reminding me that this surgery isn't cosmetic, which would take something normal and make it better. It's corrective, meaning it's taking something incorrect, or defective, and making it normal.
We left the surgeon's office planning to make a return trip in two-three months so that we could evaluate with him the direction Max's head shape is taking, and make a more firm decision about surgery then. When we got home, I found this email waiting in my inbox:
I agree with you. I think the temporal area of the forehead is settling far more than I would have expected. We have two options. First, we could wait to see if his head shape improves with time. I expect that if we take that approach, we would see some improvement, but probably not normalization. Second, we could return to surgery and reposition the brow with some bone grafting to help it remain secure. The bone graft could be taken from surrounding cranial bone so we would not have to take bone from another part of his body. As difficult as it is to say, I believe we would be better off going back to surgery. I am sorry about that. But all things considered, it is probably best to do that now while he is still young enough to not remember. I would love to talk this over with you by phone or in person. My cell phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.
So that settles it. One cranio-facial specialist from Texas say surgery, our original surgeon says surgery, and another surgeon says surgery is an option we should consider. It looks like we're headed for another surgery.
The question is now, how do we know who is a good surgeon? I know for certain that we won't go back with our original surgeon. In fact, we're contemplating a malpractice suit at this point. How do I trust that the surgeon we met with today has the experience to tackle what he defined as a difficult and rare procedure? There is another craniofacial surgeon here that we'll meet with just to cover all our bases, but how can I just take someones word for it when it involves my son's life? Naturally, we want the best for him, and if that involves flying to Texas to get the best possible care, we'll do it and enjoy a giant steak while we're there. But even then, how am I supposed to make this decision for him? Who decided I was smart and responsible enough to do this? I don't think I signed up for this...