Risk of plate removal in free flap reconstruction of the mandible

C. Burton Wood, Justin R. Shinn, Shaunak N. Amin, Sarah L. Rohde, Robert J. Sinard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objectives: To evaluate the factors associated with need for removal of fixation plates in mandibular free flap reconstruction. Methods: This retrospective cohort analysis reviews patients undergoing mandibular free flap reconstruction at a tertiary care center from 2005 to 2016. Patients requiring removal of fixation plates were identified through electronic medical records. Factors including demographics, adjuvant therapy, surgical site infection (SSI) and fistula rates were compared. Removal rates based on flap type were determined. Results: Between 2004 and 2016, 307 patients underwent osteocutaneous mandibular free flap reconstruction. 83 required removal of their fixation plates (27%). Age, tobacco use, and BMI were similar between patients requiring removal versus not requiring removal. Primary indications for removal were plate exposure (n = 41), and/or chronic drainage (n = 31), infection (n = 25), and pain (n = 17). Patients undergoing removal were significantly more likely to have had adjuvant radiation therapy (OR 2.09, CI 1.82–3.81), surgical site infection (OR 13.9, CI 5.15–43.2), and post-operative fistula (OR 13.0, 6.85–24.8). 35% of all fibula flaps (n = 52), 21% of osteocutaneous radial forearm (n = 21), and 11% of osteocutaneous scapular flaps (n = 6) required removal. 90% of patients (n = 75) had resolution of their symptoms following hardware removal. Conclusion: Surgical site infection and fistula are strongly associated with the need for plate removal. Fibular free flaps carry the highest rate of plate removal. Plate removal leads to resolution of plate-associated symptoms in a majority of cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-95
Number of pages5
JournalOral Oncology
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Free tissue flap
  • Mandibular Neoplasm
  • Mandibular reconstruction
  • Mouth Neoplasm
  • Postoperative complication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oral Surgery
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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