BACKGROUND: The microsurgical reconstruction of the head and neck usually is the first indication for high tissue losses. The surgical team should have a hand full of technical options for any such loss. In addition, knowing how to manage each complication is important. The aim of this study was to evaluate possibilities of reconstruction and complications in patients submitted to reconstruction using free flaps.
METHODS: A retrospective study of patients with loss of tissue in the head and neck, and submitted to immediate or delayed microsurgical reconstruction was performed between March 2010 and March 2012.
RESULTS: Sixty patients that received free flaps, submitted to surgery between March 2010 and March 2012, were analyzed. Of these, 31 (52.7%) patients were women and 39 (65.0%) Caucasians. Immediate reconstructions were performed in 65% of the cases. Malignant tumours were the most common diagnoses, representing 86.7% of the cases. The frequency of the flaps was as follows: fibula in 36.7% of the cases, rectus abdominis in 23.3%, anterolateral thigh in 23.3%, antebrachial in 11.7%, and latissimus dorsi in 5%. The average operative time was 8.6 ± 2.1 hours. The ischemia period was 107.5 ± 27.6 minutes. Complications were observed in 45% of the cases: dehiscence in 18.3%, salivary fistula in 16.7%, infection in 16.7%, death during the first week after surgery in 5%, and extrusion of the synthesized material in 1.7%. Among the 60 flaps, a reintervention was required in 20 (33.3%), and the loss of 13 (21.7%) reconstructions occurred. The venous thrombosis was the main cause of reintervention and loss. Six salvage flaps were performed, three of the pectoralis pedicle and three of the latissimus dorsi muscle; two of the latter were microsurgeries.
CONCLUSIONS: Microsurgical flaps are important in head and neck reconstructions; these can be better than the pediculated ones in most of the situations; when well succeeded, they promote a decrease of morbidity, a promotion of rehabilitation, and a decrease in costs.
Keywords: Microsurgery. Head/surgery. Neck/surgery. Surgical flaps.