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Keywords:

  • Microvascular;
  • free flap;
  • head and neck;
  • reconstruction;
  • Level of Evidence: 4

Abstract

Objectives/Hypothesis:

To compare free flap reconstructive cases from 1999 and 2009 with respect to patient characteristics, surgical characteristics, outcomes, and complications; and to discuss the evolution in free flap reconstruction at a single institution during this time period.

Study Design:

Retrospective cohort comparison.

Methods:

Free flap reconstruction cases from 1999 and 2009 were collected into two cohorts. Retrospective chart review was performed to extract patient characteristics, surgical characteristics, and outcomes. Cohorts were compared with respect to extracted data with statistical significance set at P < .05.

Results:

There were 39 free flap reconstructions performed in 1999 and 81 performed in 2009. Patients in the 2009 cohort had higher American Society of Anesthesiologists scores and incidence of cardiovascular disease (P = .009 and .0045, respectively). Median operative time decreased from 12 hours in 1999 to 9 hours in 2009 (P < .0001). Median length of stay decreased from 14 to 9 days (P = .0006). The rate of perioperative return to the operating room to manage complications decreased from 30% to 17% (P = .103). There were five unsalvaged flap failures in 1999 (12.8%) compared to two failures in 2009 (2.5%) (P = .036).

Conclusions:

Patients undergoing free flap reconstruction are increasingly older and have more medical comorbidities. Despite these challenges, increased efficiency and teamwork stemming from accumulated institutional experience have led to decreased operative times, length of stay, and complication rates and increased overall success rates.