Immediate postoperative extubation in patients undergoing free tissue transfer§


  • Presented at The Triological Society Combined Sections Meeting, January 27–29, 2011, Scottsdale, Arizona.

  • The authors have no funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.

  • §

    This work was completed at the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Virginia.



Extubation (cessation of ventilatory support) is often delayed in free flap patients to protect the microvascular anastomosis, presumably by reducing emergence-related agitation. We sought to determine if immediate extubation in the operating room (OR) would improve the postoperative course compared to delayed extubation in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Study Design:

Retrospective chart review.


Medical records of all patients undergoing free tissue transfer for head and neck reconstruction between January 2009 and July 2010 were reviewed (n = 52). Patients extubated immediately postoperatively in the OR (immediate group, n = 26) were compared to patients extubated in the ICU (delayed group, n = 26).


Tobacco use, alcohol use, pulmonary history, case length, and free flap type were not significantly different between the two groups. Although the average ICU stay for the immediate group was significantly shorter than the delayed group (2.0 days vs. 3.4 days; P = .008), the reduction in overall hospital stay for the immediate group did not achieve statistical significance (8.2 days vs. 9.5 days; P = .21). Use of treatment for agitation (27% vs. 65%) and physical restraints (8% vs. 69%) were significantly lower in the immediate versus delayed group (P = .01 and P < .001, respectively). Although flap-related, surgical, and medical complication rates were not significantly different between the two groups, the delayed extubation group had a significantly higher incidence of pneumonia (15% vs. 0%; P = .05).


Immediate postoperative extubation in the OR following head and neck microvascular free tissue transfer reduces ICU stay, anxiolytic use, restraint use, and incidence of pneumonia without an increase in flap- or wound-related complications. Laryngoscope, 2011