Microvascular free tissue transfer and cochlear implants: A case series and literature review

Laryngoscope. 2020 Jun;130(6):1552-1557. doi: 10.1002/lary.28300. Epub 2019 Oct 25.


Objective: The use of microvascular free tissue transfer (MVFTT) for defects of the scalp and lateral temporal bone in patients with cochlear implants (CI) is uncommon. Herein, we report our experience with the utility, indications, and outcomes for MVFTT in patients with cochlear implants.

Methods: A retrospective review of patients at our institution from September 2016 to December 2017 identified subjects with coexistent cochlear implant and ipsilateral MVFTT of the lateral temporal bone or scalp. Information including demographics, indication for MVFTT, timing of CI and MVFTT, donor site, and previous radiation to the head and neck was collected. To assess the current literature on MVFTT in CI patients, a MEDLINE search was performed using key search terms.

Results: Two patients with cochlear implants and MVFTT of the ipsilateral temporal bone or scalp were identified. One patient underwent MVFTT for advanced device extrusion with stable audiometric parameters rather than locoregional reconstruction or device explantation. The second patient had primary cochlear implantation at oncologic lateral temporal bone resection (LTBR) and MVFTT for locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma and concurrent profound sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). A literature review identifies MVFTT as an option for advanced device extrusion, treatment of osteoradionecrosis, and reconstruction after primary oncologic surgery.

Conclusion: MVFTT is an important reconstructive tool for patients with functional, exposed cochlear implants. Cochlear implantation for severe to profound SNHL should be considered at the time of primary oncologic surgery and MVFTT of the lateral temporal bone or scalp.

Level of evidence: IV Laryngoscope, 130:1552-1557, 2020.

Keywords: Microvascular; cochlear implant; extrusion; free flap; free tissue transfer.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cochlear Implants*
  • Female
  • Free Tissue Flaps* / blood supply
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microvessels
  • Middle Aged
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scalp / surgery*