Postoperative and 1-Year Functional Outcomes After Free Flap Surgery Among Patients 80 Years or Older

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2022 Jul;167(1):41-47. doi: 10.1177/01945998221083592. Epub 2022 Mar 15.


Objective: To evaluate the postoperative and 1-year functional outcomes after free flap surgery among patients ≥80 years old.

Study design: Retrospective chart review.

Setting: Single tertiary care center.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of 596 patients who underwent head and neck ablation and reconstruction with free tissue over a 7-year period. Patients ≥80 years of age were included.

Results: Fifty patients were ≥80 years old, with an average age of 83.7 years. Ninety-day mortality was 12.0%, and those who died were of older age (87.5 vs 83.1 years, P = .036). Prior radiation therapy (odds ratio, 6.8 [95% CI, 1.1-42.7]) and a Charlson Comorbidity Index ≥3 (odds ratio, 10.0 [95% CI, 1.5-67.0]) were associated with an increased risk of 90-day mortality. Overall 21 (42.0%) patients experienced a 30-day complication; 7 (14.0%) were readmitted within 30 days; and 5 (10.0%) underwent additional flap-related operations. Flap failure occurred in 2 (4.0%) patients. Before surgery, 45 (90%) patients were living independently or within assisted living; among these, 19.5% declined to dependent functional status at 90-day follow-up. At 90 days, 2 (8.3%) of 24 patients remained tracheostomy dependent, and 20 (66.7%) of 30 patients required feeding tube supplementation. Among 42 patients, 36 (85.7%) had unrestricted or modified oral diets at 90 days. Charlson Comorbidity Index ≥2 was associated with an increased risk of 1-year mortality (odds ratio, 5.1 [95% CI, 1.4-18.6]).

Conclusion: The potential for functional decline and risk of 90-day mortality should be discussed with patients aged ≥80 years.

Keywords: elderly; free flap; functional outcomes; head and neck surgery; octogenarian.

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Free Tissue Flaps*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies