Preoperative Radiation and Complication Rates after Double Free Flap Reconstruction of Head and Neck Cancer

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INTRODUCTION: In this study, we explore whether preoperative external beam radiation affects complication rates in patients that have undergone double simultaneous free tissue transfer for head and neck defects.

STUDY DESIGN, SETTING, SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Approval was obtained from the JPS Institutional Review Board. We performed a retrospective analysis of patients who underwent double free flap reconstruction of head and neck defects between August 1997 and April 2017. Minimum follow up was 6 months. Patients were grouped according to preoperative radiation status (XRT vs non-XRT). The chi-squared test was used for all comparisons. P-values and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were reported as (P, 95% CI).

RESULTS: 90 flaps were performed on 45 patients. The most common flap combination utilized was fibula plus radial forearm free flap (RFF) in 17 out of 45 patients. There were no statistically significant differences in frequency of flap failure (0.35, -15.9-20.1), wound infection (0.75, -22.1-19.3), hematoma (0.16, -5.3-36.7), or fistula formation (0.69, -22.5-24.6). There were also no statistically significant differences in cardiac complications (0.57, -10.3-28.2) and DVT (0.22, -12.4-25.3).

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that double free flap patients who had preoperative radiation are not more likely to have complications compared to non- radiated patients. Simultaneous double free flaps should be reserved for the most complex cases. Extensive discussion should be had with the patient about possible morbidity and mortality.


This article was published in American Journal of Otolaryngology, Issue 39, Volume 5, pages 558-560.

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