Examining the relationship of immunotherapy and wound complications following flap reconstruction in patients with head and neck cancer

Head Neck. 2021 May;43(5):1509-1520. doi: 10.1002/hed.26601. Epub 2021 Jan 8.


Background: Immunotherapy agents are used to treat advanced head and neck lesions. We aim to elucidate relationship between immunotherapy and surgical wound complications.

Methods: Retrospective multi-institutional case series evaluating patients undergoing ablative and flap reconstructive surgery and immunotherapy treatment.

Main outcome: wound complications.

Results: Eight-two (62%) patients received preoperative therapy, 89 (67%) postoperative, and 33 (25%) in both settings. Forty-one (31%) patients had recipient site complications, 12 (9%) had donor site. Nineteen (14%) had major recipient site complications, 22 (17%) had minor. There was no statistically significant difference in complications based on patient or tumor-specific variables. Preoperative therapy alone demonstrated increased major complications (odds ratio [OR] 3.7, p = 0.04), and trend to more donor site complications (OR 7.4, p = 0.06), however treatment in both preoperative and postoperative therapy was not.

Conclusions: Preoperative immunotherapy may be associated with increased wound complications. Controlled studies are necessary to delineate this association and potential risks of therapy.

Keywords: free flap reconstruction; head and neck cancer; immunotherapy; wound complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Free Tissue Flaps*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / adverse effects
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome