Perfusion of microvascular free flaps in head and neck reconstruction after prior neck dissection and irradiation

Published:October 15, 2022DOI:


      Microvascular free flaps are frequently used for head and neck reconstruction after prior neck dissection (ND) and neck irradiation (RTX). The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of ND and RTX on flap perfusion as a critical factor for flap success. Overall, 392 patients reconstructed with a microvascular fasciocutaneous flap (FF) or perforator flap (PF) in the head and neck region between 2011 and 2020 were analysed retrospectively. Flap perfusion measured intraoperatively and postoperatively with the O2C tissue oxygen analysis system was compared between patients who had received neither ND nor RTX (controls), patients who had received ND but no RTX (ND group), and patients who had received both ND and RTX (ND+RTX group). Intraoperative and postoperative flap blood flow was decreased in FFs in ND group patients compared to controls (median 66.3 AU vs 86.0 AU, P = 0.023; median 73.5 AU vs 93.8 AU, P = 0.045, respectively). In the multivariable analysis, these differences showed a tendency to persist (P = 0.052 and P = 0.056). Flap success rates were similar in control patients, ND patients, and ND+RTX patients (98.7%, 94.0%, and 97.6%, respectively). Flap perfusion is not reduced in FFs and PFs in patients who have undergone ND or ND and RTX. This indicates that neck dissection and neck irradiation should not be contraindications for microvascular free flap reconstruction.


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