Aims of study: This study reports the longitudinal experience of one microsurgery unit performing free flap transfers for head and neck reconstruction on the consecutive patients in the past 10 years.
Methods: A retrospective review of hospital and outpatient records was performed in the patients who underwent free flap transfers for head and neck reconstruction in our unit (Fourth Ward, Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Peking University School and Hospital of Stomatology) between 1999 and 2009.
Results: A total of 2162 cases were identified which were performed from 1999 to 2009 in our unit. Patients’ ages ranged from 5 to 86 years (average: 45.8 years). Ten different kinds of free flaps had been involved as the preferred choice for the reconstruction of a specific head and neck defect, including fibula flap, 1072 cases; radial forearm free flap, 736 cases; jejunal flap, 99 cases; RAMF, 91 cases; ALT, 67 cases; lateral arm free flap, 43 cases; scapular free flap, 19 cases; DCIA, 19 cases; latissimus dofsi myocutaneous flap, 13 cases; deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap, 3 cases. All flaps survived except for 40 (success rate: 98.1%). The overall rate of postoperative clinical complications preceded flap failure was 21%. But the most common complications were minor without significant influences.
Conclusion: Free flap transfer for the head and neck defect reconstruction is feasible and reliable. Good results were obtained with both functional and social rehabilitation without severe complication. It should be reliably offered to a wide group of patients.
Conflict of interest: None declared.