Free tissue flaps in head and neck reconstruction: clinical application and analysis of 93 patients of a single institution

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Abstract

Introduction: Reconstruction with a free flap is routine in head and neck surgery because of better functional outcomes, improved esthetics, and generally higher success rates. Objective: To evaluate the clinical outcomes in patients undergoing different microvascular free flap reconstructions. Methods: This was a retrospective study of 93 patients undergoing reconstructions with free flaps from 2007 to 2015. Four types of free flap were performed: anterolateral thigh (76.3%), radial forearm (16.1%), fibula (4.3%) and jejunum (3.3%). Patients’ demographic data were collected, and the outcomes measured included flap survival and complications. Postoperative functional and oncological outcome were also analyzed. Results: The patients included 73 men and 20 women, with a mean age of 56.1 years. The most common tumor location was the tongue. Squamous cell carcinoma represented the vast majority of the diagnosed tumors (89.2%). The most common recipient vessels were the superior thyroid artery (77.4%) and the internal jugular vein (91.4%). Nine patients required emergency surgical re-exploration and the overall flap success rate was 90.3%. Venous thrombosis was the most common cause for re-exploration. Other complications included wound infection (5.4%), wound dehiscence (1.1%), partial flap necrosis (9.7%), fistula formation (10.8%), and 1 bleeding (1.1%). The majority of patients had satisfactory cosmetic and functional results of both donor site and recipient site after 46.7 months of mean follow-up. Conclusion: Microsurgical free flap is shown to be a valuable and reliable method in head and neck surgery. It can be used safely and effectively with minimal morbidity in selected patients. The reconstruction can be performed by appropriately skilled surgeons with acceptable outcomes. Success rate appears to increase as clinical experience is gained.

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Liang, J., Yu, T., Wang, X., Zhao, Y., Fang, F., Zeng, W., & Li, Z. (2018). Free tissue flaps in head and neck reconstruction: clinical application and analysis of 93 patients of a single institution. Brazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, 84(4), 416–425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjorl.2017.04.009

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