Free-flap reconstruction of the lower limb in octogenarians – A comparative analysis of indications, management, and outcomes

Published:October 17, 2022DOI:



      Impaired microcirculation, along with an increase in chronic medical conditions in the geriatric cohort, may favor the development of soft-tissue defects in the lower extremity and equally impair the options for plastic-reconstructive surgery. In particular, outcome analyses in the increasing patient cohort ≥ 80 years (octogenarians) are limited.


      Setting 80 years as the cutoff, we conducted an age-related outcome analysis of all patients undergoing free-flap reconstruction of the lower extremity from 2014 to 2020, comprising the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score and Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) as the possible outcome predicting factors.


      During the study period, a total of 424 free flaps were performed in 385 patients (∅: 54.7 years ± 16.1; range: 9–89), including 19 octogenarians. Compared with the younger patient cohort, there was a significantly higher rate of early flap revision (p = 0.023) and flap loss (p = 0.028). Furthermore, the mean length of hospital (60.6 ± 37.6 vs. 51.1 ± 37.0) and intensive care unit/intermediate care stay (6.5 ± 15.0 vs. 3.5 ± 8.5) was extended (n.s.). The ASA score presented an independent predictor for major surgical [odds ratio (OR): 1.66; p = 0.041) and medical complications (OR: 3.97; p<0.001). Neither the CCI nor the ASA served as an independent predictor for total flap loss.


      Free-flap reconstruction of the lower extremity in octogenarians is associated with a higher risk of flap revision and flap loss. Considering the prolonged immobilization associated with increased morbidity following limb amputation, it presents still a reasonable option to achieve limb salvage in carefully chosen patients. An adequate tool to predict the success of free-flap survival is still unavailable.


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      1. Eurostat. Over 27 million people aged 80 and over in the EU

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