Background: Osteocutaneous free flaps have become the primary reconstructive modality for segmental mandibulectomy defects. The advent of preoperative virtual surgical planning with stereolithic models and cutting templates has led to significant refinements in operative technique. In this article, the authors examine the value of computed tomography-guided preoperative virtual surgical planning on operative outcomes and efficiency after mandibular reconstruction with osteocutaneous free flaps.
Methods: A retrospective review was performed of all patients undergoing free flap mandible reconstruction at a single cancer center from 2002 to 2013. Surgical technique and operative time were assessed, as were overall complications and outcomes. Postoperative computed tomographic scans were also examined to determine the accuracy of osteotomies with and without virtual surgical planning.
Results: Ninety-two patients underwent osteocutaneous free flap reconstruction of the mandible during the study period. In 43 patients, the shaping of the neomandible was performed based on the prefabricated stereolithic models. The remaining 49 patients underwent preoperative computed tomographic imaging to design patient-specific cutting guides for the native mandible and the osteocutaneous flap. The use of preoperative computed tomography-guided planning resulted in less burring, fewer osteotomy revisions, and less bone grafting. Virtual surgical planning also significantly decreased operative time (666 minutes versus 545 minutes; p < 0.005). Review of postoperative computed tomographic scans demonstrated decreased rates of bony nonunion with virtual surgical planning, and there were no significant differences in overall outcomes or complications between the groups.
Conclusions: Preoperative virtual surgical planning has refined mandible reconstruction with osteocutaneous free flaps through the introduction of patient-specific models, prebent plates, and osteotomy guides. Virtual surgical planning decreases operative time and improves the accuracy of free flap mandibular reconstruction.
Clinical question/level of evidence: Therapeutic, III.