The use of the pectoralis major flap for advanced and recurrent head and neck malignancy in the medically compromised patient

Oral Oncol. 2010 Nov;46(11):829-33. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2010.08.004. Epub 2010 Sep 20.


A retrospective review of seventy-one PPM flaps used between 1996 and 2010 primarily for oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma presenting as either advanced stage IV primary disease (41/43), extensive recurrent (10) or metastatic (9) neck disease. The PPM flap was most commonly used following resection of the mandible (23) or the tongue/oropharynx (19). When the PPM flap was the preferred reconstruction option (54) the main indication, in addition to advanced disease, was significant medical co-morbidity (23). The majority of PPM flaps (75%) were used in the latter half of the series for an increasing number of patients in poor health with advanced disease. There was no evidence of an increase in age, ASA grade or extent of disease during this period. Approximately one quarter (17) of the flaps were used after failure of a free flap, most commonly a DCIA (7) or radial (6) flap. The 30day mortality in this group of compromised patients undergoing major surgery for advanced disease was 7% (5/71). The overwhelming majority had significant co-morbidity (94% grade 2 or higher with 63% ASA grade 3) and 90% had already undergone previous major surgery and/or radiotherapy. The 1-year, 3-year and 5-year overall survival rates were 65.5%, 39.1% and 11.0% respectively with cancer-specific survival rates of 82.0%, 65.5% and 65.5%. The majority died of disease related to the underlying co-morbidity. We recommend an aggressive approach to the surgical resection of advanced and recurrent disease but a pragmatic approach to reconstruction. The PPM major flap is reliable for reconstruction of defects of the mandible, tongue and oropharynx with a complete flap failure rate of 2.8%. Lateral defects of the mandible were managed without a plate and with an acceptable outcome in the context of limited life expectancy. This is the largest study of the use of the PPM flap for this type of patient group. The flap retains a major role in the management of advanced primary or recurrent disease, extensive metastatic neck disease and after failure of a free flap when in conjunction with significant co-morbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / blood supply
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / mortality
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery*
  • Pectoralis Muscles / blood supply
  • Pectoralis Muscles / transplantation*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome