Early and late complications in the reconstructed mandible with free fibula flaps

J Surg Oncol. 2018 Mar;117(4):773-780. doi: 10.1002/jso.24976. Epub 2018 Feb 15.


Background and objectives: Evaluation of mandibular reconstructions with free fibula flaps. Identification of factors associated with major recipient site complications, that is, necessitating surgical intervention under general anaesthesia.

Methods: Seventy-nine reconstructions were included. The following factors were analyzed: fixation type, number of osteotomies, site of defect (bilateral/unilateral), surgeon, sex, ASA classification, continuous smoking, pathological N-stage, age, defect size, flap ischemic time, and postoperative radiotherapy. Proportional hazards regression was used to test the effect on the time between reconstruction and intervention.

Results: Sixty-nine (87%) of the 79 fibula flaps were successful at the last follow-up. Forty-eight major recipient site complications occurred in 41 reconstructions. Nineteen complications required surgical intervention within six weeks and were mostly vascular problems, necessitating immediate intervention. These early complications were associated with defects crossing the midline, with an estimated relative risk of 5.3 (CI 1.1-20, P = 0.01). Twenty-nine complications required surgical intervention more than 6 weeks after the reconstruction. These late complications generally occurred after months or years, and were associated with smoking, with an estimated relative risk of 2.8 (CI 1.0-8.3, P = 0.05).

Conclusions: Fibula flaps crossing the midline have a higher risk of early major recipient site complications than unilateral reconstructions. Smoking increases the risk of late complications.

Keywords: early complications; free fibula flap; late complications; major recipient site complications; mandibular reconstruction; oral cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Chondrosarcoma / surgery
  • Female
  • Fibula / surgery*
  • Free Tissue Flaps*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandible / surgery*
  • Mandibular Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Mandibular Reconstruction / adverse effects*
  • Mandibular Reconstruction / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteosarcoma / surgery
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck