Does age or frailty have more predictive effect on outcomes following pedicled flap reconstruction? An analysis of 44,986 cases

J Plast Surg Hand Surg. 2020 Apr;54(2):67-76. doi: 10.1080/2000656X.2019.1688166. Epub 2019 Nov 18.


The elderly population in the United States is expanding rapidly, and with advancements in modern medicine, the number of elderly patients undergoing surgery has risen in parallel. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of age and frailty on postoperative outcomes following pedicled flap reconstruction. The 2005-2016 ACS-NSQIP databases were queried to identify cases involving pedicled flaps based on CPT codes. Demographic data and postoperative complications were assessed using Chi-square and t-tests for analysis of categorical and continuous variables, respectively. A multivariable regression analysis was conducted to control for confounders. A total of 44,986 cases were included in our analysis. Patients in the 70-79year age group had the highest rates of all-cause (31.2%), mild systemic (25.3%) and severe systemic (7.4%) complications. Multivariable regression identified age as an independent risk factor for all-cause, severe systemic and wound complications. A score of 3+ on the 5-factor modified frailty index (mFI-5) was associated with all-cause, severe systemic and wound complications. When stratified by flap location, age was predictive of all-cause complications for breast, trunk, upper extremity and lower extremity flaps. Finally, mFI-5 score of 3+ was identified as an independent risk factor for all-cause complications in flaps of the head and neck, trunk and lower extremity. Although, increased age does contribute to risk of postoperative complications, the frailty index appears to hold much stronger predictive capacity. These findings stress the importance of optimizing preoperative comorbidities to reduce the risk of poor postoperative outcomes.

Keywords: NSQIP; Pedicled flaps; age; frailty.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Frailty*
  • Graft Survival*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Young Adult