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Original Investigation
Jan/Feb 2016

Cervicofacial Rhytidectomy After Radiotherapy for Head and Neck Tumors

Author Affiliations
  • 1Renew Facial Plastic Surgery, Edina, Minnesota
  • 2Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2016;18(1):9-14. doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2015.1316

Importance  Whether undergoing cervicofacial rhytidectomy after radiotherapy for tumors of the head and neck is associated with increased complication rates and therefore should be avoided remains unknown.

Objective  To evaluate complication rates in patients who have undergone cervicofacial rhytidectomy after radiotherapy for head and neck tumors and compare these rates with those of patients who have not undergone radiotherapy.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Retrospective review of the medical records of 16 patients who underwent cervicofacial rhytidectomy after completing radiotherapy for head and neck tumors and those of 16 age-matched control participants who did not undergo radiotherapy. Patients underwent treatment from July 1, 2006, through February 28, 2014, with final follow-up on February 28, 2014. Complications after surgery were reviewed and data for surgery type, technique, radiation dose and delivery method, and time to surgery after radiotherapy were analyzed. Data were collected from June 1 through December 31, 2013, and analyzed from January 1, 2014, through June 1, 2015.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Rate of complications after surgery.

Results  The radiotherapy and control group patients were a mean of 62 years old. In the radiotherapy group, 8 of 16 were women; 14 of 16 were women in the control group. Two major complications, 1 hematoma and 1 perioperative stroke, occurred in the 16 patients who composed the study cohort. In the control group, there was 1 case of transient facial nerve weakness and 1 case of cellulitis that was successfully treated with antibiotics. Two patients experienced wound dehiscence, and no incidents of motor or sensory nerve injury occurred. Subcutaneous face-lift (3 of 3 patients [100%] vs 1 of 13 patients [8%] who underwent superficial musculoaponeurotic system and deep-plane face-lifts; P = .02) and the addition of chemotherapy (4 of 9 patients [44%] vs 0 of 7 patients who did not receive chemotherapy; P = .04) were associated with increased complications. Being older and the time from completion of radiotherapy and surgery did not show any correlation to complications.

Conclusions and Relevance  Aesthetic facial surgery after radiotherapy has an increased risk for complication compared with facial surgery without radiotherapy. The incidence of wound dehiscence is elevated in the population undergoing radiotherapy but can be managed conservatively in most cases. Patients who undergo radiotherapy must be counseled on the increased risk for complications before proceeding with cervicofacial rhytidectomy.

Level of Evidence  3.