Scanning electron microscopy of irradiated recipient blood vessels in head and neck free flaps

Plast Reconstr Surg. 1984 Aug;74(2):217-26. doi: 10.1097/00006534-198408000-00008.


Irradiated and control recipient blood vessels in a similar patient population were studied with scanning electron microscopy. The vessels that were biopsied were then anastomosed to a free flap. Irradiated arteries display a significantly greater wall thickness and higher incidence of intimal dehiscence compared with control arteries. Fibrin deposition, microthrombi, and endothelium cell dehiscence are present more frequently in irradiated vessels than in control vessels. Details of the preparation and anastomotic technique for irradiated blood vessels are discussed. Microvascular surgery in irradiated human blood vessels carries with it a higher risk of thrombosis due to preexisting vessel wall damage. This risk can be minimized by experience and attention to detail.

MeSH terms

  • Arteries / radiation effects*
  • Arteries / ultrastructure
  • Face / blood supply*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning*
  • Neck / blood supply*
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Thrombosis / pathology
  • Veins / radiation effects*
  • Veins / ultrastructure