Sensory recovery of innervated and non-innervated radial forearm free flaps: functional implications

J Reconstr Microsurg. 2000 Apr;16(3):179-85. doi: 10.1055/s-2000-7549.


Findings reported in the literature on the sensation provided by intraorally applied innervated vs. non-innervated radial forearm free flaps differ. In an effort to understand these differences in sensory recovery, the authors carried out sensory evaluations in 12 patients who had undergone radial forearm free flaps. Seven patients had innervated flaps for defects of the tongue and floor of mouth; five had non-innervated flaps to various sites. Flap sensitivity to temperature, light touch, dull touch, and sharpness and two-point discrimination was assessed at the donor site and contralaterally, and at the recipient site and contralateral mirror-image oral mucosa. Patients subjectively rated post-reconstruction sensation and provided quality of life (QOOL) data. The innervated flaps demonstrated better sensory recovery than the non-innervated flaps, although the latter did restore reasonable sensation. This paper describes the results, compares the study to other similar studies, and discusses various factors in the sensory recovery of both innervated and non-innervated intraoral radial forearm free flaps. The authors conclude that, although the trend in this study is toward improved function with the innervated flaps, these flaps do not appear to offer major intraoral functional advantage over the non-innervated flaps, which attain reasonably effective sensory recovery from neural ingrowth, if the lingual nerve is intact.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Forearm
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Diseases / surgery*
  • Perception
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Reference Values
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Transplantation
  • Surgical Flaps / innervation*
  • Tongue Diseases / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome