Impact of vasopressors on outcomes in head and neck free tissue transfer



Objectives/Hypothesis: The primary objective of the study was to determine the frequency of intraoperative vasopressor administration among patients undergoing free tissue transfer for head and neck reconstruction, and the secondary objective was to determine the impact of intraoperative vasopressor on free tissue transfer outcomes, including the impact of cumulative vasopressor dose and timing of intraoperative vasopressor administration. Study design/Methods: A retrospective review was performed of all patients undergoing free tissue transfer for head and neck reconstruction at the University Health Network between 2004 to 2008. Results: From 2004 to 2008 inclusive, 485 patients underwent 496 free tissue transfers for head and neck reconstruction. The complete failure rate was 2.2% (11 of 485 patients). The partial failure rate was 1.4%, and the operative take-back rate for venous congestion or arterial thrombosis was 1.6%. This gave a total major flap complication rate of 5.2%, which was used as the primary free tissue transfer outcome measure. Of the 485 patients who underwent free tissue transfer, 320 (66.0%) received intraoperative vasopressor. Of these patients, the majority (97.5%) received phenylephrine and/or ephedrine. There was no significant relationship between receiving intraoperative vasopressor and major free flap complications, which were defined as complete failure, partial failure, or operative take-back for venous congestion or arterial thrombosis. Conclusion: Intraoperative vasopressors are used routinely in free tissue transfer for the reconstruction of head and neck defects. The use of intraoperative vasopressors does not appear to adversely affect free tissue transfer outcomes. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Microsurgery, 2012.