The introduction of radiotherapy (XRT) has resulted in increased survival of patients diagnosed with head and neck malignancies. However, the potentially deleterious impact of radiotherapy on reconstructive efforts continues to be the subject of intense debate. The present study was designed to evaluate the effects of preoperative XRT on complication rates in patients undergoing microsurgical reconstruction of head and neck defects after oncosurgical resection.A retrospective cohort study was conducted of all patients who underwent immediate microsurgical reconstruction of post-ablative defects over a 3-year period. Study subjects were divided into two groups: (1) those who did not receive XRT and (2) those who received preoperative XRT. Clinical variables examined and analysed included age, gender, co-morbid conditions, tobacco history, the presence of recurrent disease and ischaemia time. Outcomes of interest included length of intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital stay and postoperative complications. Complications were further classified as flap-related as well as 'medical'.A total of 60 patients were included in this study (group 1: 26 patients; group 2: 34 patients). Results were similar between the study groups with the exception of a higher rate of flap-related complications in patients undergoing XRT. Overall, 19 patients (31.7%) experienced flap-related complications, with 12% of the patients being in group 1 (N=3) versus 47% of patients being in group 2 (N=16) (p=0.003).Our data suggest that preoperative radiotherapy is associated with a significant increase in postoperative flap-related complications. However, these did not result in a prolonged hospital stay, reflecting the fact that the majority of flap-related complications can be managed on an outpatient basis. Although microsurgical reconstruction is frequently successful, patients with a history of XRT should be informed preoperatively about their increased risk of complications.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bjps.2011.06.043
View details for Web of Science ID 000296579400015
View details for PubMedID 21783448