Does increased free flap size in the head and neck region impact clinical outcome?

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5 Scopus citations


Purpose There are few studies analyzing the long-term clinical effects related to increasing the size of head and neck free tissue reconstructions. The purpose of this study was to compare long-term clinical outcomes of patients undergoing very large area (≥200 cm2) and large area (100 to 199 cm2) free tissue reconstructions of head and neck defects. Patients and Methods Institutional review board approval was obtained before conducting this retrospective cohort study at the authors' university-based tertiary care hospitals. The authors analyzed the charts of consecutive patients with free flaps of at least 100 cm2 treated from July 2000 to December 2011. Very large area flaps were arbitrarily defined as larger than 200 cm 2. Intraoperative variables, flap success rates, overall survival, and total hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) stays for the 2 groups were analyzed. Fisher exact tests or χ2 tests were used for categorical variables and Student t tests were used for continuous variables. Log-rank tests were conducted to investigate whether overall survival was significantly different between the 2 groups. Statistical significance was defined as a P value less than.05. Results The charts of 121 consecutive patients were analyzed. Thirty-eight patients (31%) had very large area flaps (277.1 ± 79.4 cm2; range, 200 to 576 cm2) and 83 patients (69%) had large area flaps (140.1 ± 25.5 cm2). There was no difference between flap groups in presenting T4 stage disease (P =.448). Ninety-eight percent of the very large area flaps and 93% of the large area flaps survived. Total hospital stays for the very large area and large area flap groups were 12.8 ± 8.2 and 12.3 ± 8.3 days, respectively (P = not significant). In contrast, ICU stays were increased for the very large area flap group at 7.1 ± 7.5 versus 4.0 ± 4.0 days for the large area flap group (P =.022). The overall median patient survival for the very large area flap group was 7.6 months (95% confidence interval, 5.7-10.0) and that for the large area flap group was 8.4 months (95% confidence interval, 5.4-12.9; P =.376). Conclusion Performing very large area flaps for head and neck reconstruction did not negatively affect clinical outcome. Comparable success rates, total hospital stays, and overall survival can be safely achieved in this difficult patient population. More studies need to be conducted on resource usage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1832-1840
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oral Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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