What are the patient outcomes for adults undergoing head and neck resections that require multiple-flap reconstructions?
In this systematic review of 24 studies comprising 487 patients, patients undergoing head and neck resections that required multiple-flap reconstructions experienced poor functional and aesthetic outcomes, limited patient survival, extended hospital stays, and considerable associated perioperative complications.
Surgeons should weigh the curative potential and palliative benefits for individual patients with a comprehensive view of the overall outcomes of extensive head and neck resections that require multiflap reconstructions; realistic expectations should be emphasized during preoperative discussions with patients.
Complex head and neck cancer defects that require multiflap reconstructions are technically feasible, but the morbidity and patient outcomes of such large-scale head and neck operations have yet to be systematically reviewed.
To systematically review existing literature to characterize the outcomes of large-scale head and neck resections that require multiple-flap reconstructions (defined as defects that require >1 flap [free, pedicled, or combinations thereof]).
Two authors independently searched PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Review databases for English-only texts published on any date. Included studies examined patients who underwent complex head and neck surgical resections that required multiple simultaneous flaps for reconstruction. Included studies reported results on at least one of the following outcomes: functional and aesthetic, patient survival, or cost (estimated by operating room time, length of stay, and/or complications). Methodological Index for Non-Randomized Studies (MINORS) criteria for bias and modified Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine recommendations were used to assess study quality.
Twenty-four studies published from November 1, 1992, through September 1, 2016, met the final inclusion criteria, with a total of 487 patients (370 male [79.4%]; mean [SD] weighted age, 55.1 [4.1] years). Sixty-two of 250 patients (24.8%) were partially or fully dependent on feeding tubes at follow-up. Twenty-two of 75 patients (29.3%) had poor postoperative oral competence, causing moderate to severe drooling. Nineteen of 108 patients (17.6%) had unintelligible speech. Nine of 64 patients (14.1%) were unsatisfied with their aesthetic outcome. The mean (SD) reported survival was 2.36 (1.39) years. The mean (SD) length of stay was 24.5 (12.2) days in 219 patients. Eighty-eight minor complications (eg, partial flap necrosis, donor site complications) and 185 major complications (eg, surgical reexplorations, flap loss, or cardiopulmonary complications) were reported in 380 patients. Mean (SD) MINORS scores were 16.0 (3.2) for comparison studies and 11.4 (1.8) for noncomparison studies.
Conclusions and Relevance
Because of limited patient life expectancies, modest functional and aesthetic outcomes, and significant associated costs, surgeons should weigh the curative potential and palliative benefits for individual patients with a comprehensive view of the overall outcomes of extensive head and neck resections and reconstructions. Realistic expectations should be emphasized during preoperative discussions with patients.
Gao RW, Nuyen BA, Divi V, Sirjani D, Rosenthal EL. Outcomes in Head and Neck Resections That Require Multiple-Flap Reconstructions: A Systematic Review. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;144(8):746–752. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.0835
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