Objective: This study describes the clinical setting and operative outcomes for simultaneous double free flap treatment of extensive composite head and neck cancers.
Methods: A retrospective review at two tertiary referral centers was performed. Patient demographics, cancer characteristics, reconstruction methods, and postoperative course were recorded. All patients were assessed for diet, speech, esthetics, socialization, and satisfaction using specific evaluation scales.
Results: A total of 30 patients underwent double free flap reconstruction between 2001 and 2007. There were 19 men and 11 women, mean age of 62 years (range, 42-79). Comorbidities were present in 67% of the cases and 70% smoked. Most frequently the cancer was a squamous cell carcinoma (90%), in advanced stage (87%), and recurrent (67%), affecting the oral cavity (43%), larynx (23%) or pharynx (20%). The fibula osteoseptocutaneous/radial forearm fasciocutaneous flap combination was most commonly used (n = 13), followed by the jejunum-radial forearm flap (n = 10). Three flaps required early anastomosis revision and only two partial flap losses were observed. In 11 cases, there was a severe recipient site complication: wound dehiscence (n = 3), oral incompetence (n = 4), fistula (n = 2), and stenosis (n = 2). Two patients died in the postoperative period due to medical problems (7%). The mean follow up was 15.3 months. Patient satisfaction was poor to moderate and the overall functional evaluation score was low.
Conclusions: Double free flaps for one-stage reconstruction of extensive head and neck defects should be used in selected cases. Although a reliable procedure, immediate postoperative morbidity and mortality is high, and the long-term functional and esthetic results are modest. Realistic outcomes should be discussed with patients during planning and consent.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.