Nerve Reconstruction for Chris’ Jaw


HOUSTON, Tx. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Imagine a dentist giving you a shot to numb pain before dental surgery. Normally, that feeling wears off after a couple of hours. But what if it didn’t? That is the feeling one man had to deal with after a tumor took away his ability to feel. Nerve reconstruction.

Music plays a big part in Chris and Trust Stovah’s lives.

“I like music. That’s where we met in the first place in a local church,” Chris Stovah told Ivanhoe.

But the music stopped when a fast-growing benign tumor on Chris’ jaw made it hard for him to sing.

Chris Stovah stated, “The teeth of that region, I couldn’t use to eat. It comes with severe pain.”

The tumor even made Chris limit his time outside the house.

“He can’t go to places without anybody asking him, ‘What’s going on with you here? What happened to you here,’” Trust Stovah, Chris’ wife, shared.

Surgeons removed the tumor from Chris’s jaw, but to do so, they also had to remove a nerve which meant Chris would lose sensation in a portion of his face and have difficulty eating or smiling. But thankfully, Dr. James Melville had a solution to make sure that didn’t happen.

“What we call a micro vascular free flap, we brought that up and then connect, did the micro-vascular in the neck and then repaired his nerve at the same time. So that surgery is pretty extensive,” James Melville, DDS, FACS, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the University of Texas Health Science Center, noted.

(Read Full Interview)

During a 12-hour surgery Dr. Melville removed the tumor and rebuilt Chris’s jaw. Then he reconstructed Chris’s alveolar nerve using Avance nerve graft to restore sensation to Chris’s jaw and mouth. Now…

“I can do whatever I want to do,” Chris Stovah exclaimed.

And have the confidence to go wherever he wants to go.

Recovery from the surgery is typically around 12 months. Chris got complete sensation back in his mouth and jaw in about nine months.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

To receive a free weekly e-mail on medical breakthroughs from Ivanhoe, sign up at:




REPORT:       MB #4963

BACKGROUND: The nerve in the jaw, the trigeminal nerve, is a complex nerve that is responsible for sensation in the face as well as motor function, like chewing or biting. This nerve is the largest of the cranial nerves. It comes directly from the brain, the branches of this nerve give sensation to the upper face, midface, upper lip, jaw and palate, lower face, lower lip, and tongue. Injury to the nerve comes from facial trauma, local anesthesia, or surgical procedures. Complete sensory recovery from such injuries seldom occurs spontaneously. Peripheral nerve injuries can cause permanent sensory dysfunction such as decreased or lost sensation, painful sensation, or a combination of both. This can interfere with daily living and may affect the lives of afflicted patients.


DIAGNOSING: Time between the injury and repair can be less critical and the sensation in the face can be recovered even after one to two years without sensation. All routes to access the sensory nerve involve little scaring. Minor or superficial nerve injuries can heal themselves; an exam neurophysiology and clinical imaging will decide the level of damage to the nerve and if it needs repair. If the nerve needs repair, this is done so surgically. Patients with persistent loss of sensation in the face can take more than four to six months to heal properly.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Recent advances in allograft nerves, which are nerves harvested from human donors, combined with advances in complex microsurgical repair allow doctors to successfully restore feeling to patients’ faces after trigeminal nerve damage. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are doctors who specialize in the care of patients with facial trauma and perform surgery. These surgeries, called orthognathic surgery, correct jaw irregularities and realign the patient’s jaw and bite. These specialists also remove benign tumors and cysts through reconstructive surgery, in some cases they can repair the trigeminal nerve. It is very important for patients to report to their doctors if they have any numbness or pain following an oral surgery, because the nerve may have been damaged during the procedure. Using the nerve allografts from human donors has been increasingly popular because after surgery, the patients does not have to go on immunosuppressives, which may or may not have even prevented the body from rejecting the graft. This new technique is less likely to reject the graft and retain the structure necessary for nerve regeneration.





If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for James Melville, DDS, an Associate Professor and Oral Surgeon

Read the entire Q&A