The Submental Island Flap Is a Viable Reconstructive Option for a Variety of Head and Neck Ablative Defects

Ochsner J. 2018 Spring;18(1):53-58.


Background: The submental island flap (SIF) is a pedicled flap based upon the submental artery and vein. Its utility in reconstruction following ablative head and neck procedures has been applied to various subsites including skin, lip, buccal mucosa, retromolar trigone, parotidectomy defects, and tongue. We review our experience using the SIF for reconstruction following tumor ablation.

Methods: This prospective case series with medical record review includes consecutive patients undergoing SIF reconstruction following ablative surgery for malignancy at a single tertiary care facility between November 2014 and November 2016. We examined preoperative variables, surgical procedures, and postoperative outcomes.

Results: Thirty-seven patients met inclusion criteria. Twenty-nine were male; the average age was 64.3 (±12.4) years. Seventeen cancers involved the oral cavity, 11 involved the skin, 8 were in the oropharynx, and 1 was in the paranasal sinus. The average size of the SIF was 38.8 cm2 (±17.6 cm2). Four partial flap losses occurred; none required revision surgery. The average length of stay for these patients was 7.2 (±6.1) days.

Conclusion: The SIF is a robust flap that can be reliably used for a variety of head and neck defects following tumor ablation with an acceptable rate of donor- and flap-related complications.

Keywords: Head and neck neoplasms; reconstructive surgery; surgery–plastic; surgical flaps.