Ablative surgery for head and neck cancer often results in defects that require free flap reconstruction. Improved survival after refined oncologic and adjuvant techniques has led to an increase in the number of patients undergoing a second free flap reconstruction. The objective of this study was to assess outcomes following a second free flap in head and neck reconstruction.
Materials and methods
Following ablative defects in the head and neck, 1475 patients underwent reconstructive surgery over a period of 17 years. A second free flap for reconstruction was performed on 123 of these patients. In Group 1, 93 patients had a reconstruction for either tumour recurrence, second primary tumour or reconstructive complications (fractured plate, osteoradionecrosis, orocutaneous fistula). In Group 2, 30 patients had a second free flap following primary free flap reconstructive failure.
Flap success for Group 1 patients was 86/90 (96%) compared to group 2 patients, 22/30 (73%) (p < 0.05). In Group 1, partial necrosis occurred in four patients whereas in Group 2, there was only one partial necrosis (NS; p > 0.05).
A second free flap may be required for reconstruction of head and neck defects following complications of the initial reconstruction, presence of a second primary or tumour recurrence. Success rates for second free flap reconstructions were significantly lower in those patients with initial free flap failure.
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Published online: April 09, 2012
Accepted: March 22, 2012
Received: January 29, 2012
© 2012 British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.