Combined Use of Liposuction and Arthroscopic Shaving for Delayed Debulking of Free Flaps in Head and Neck Reconstruction

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Bulky appearance after free flap reconstruction in patients with head and neck cancer is common and requires revision to achieve improved final outcomes. Although different delayed debulking methods have been reported, the procedure can be technically difficult in patients with severe scaring after adjuvant radiotherapy. The present study proposes a combined method of liposuction and arthroscopic shaving for delayed contouring of free flaps in head and neck reconstruction.


In this study, 12 patients with head and neck cancer who had bulky flaps after cancer ablation surgery and immediate free anterolateral thigh flap reconstruction were included. These patients underwent delayed debulking through the combined arthroscopic shaving and liposuction method at least 3 months after the initial reconstruction or the completion of adjuvant radiotherapy (if required). Age, sex, cancer stages, the presence or absence of adjuvant radiotherapy, the interval between the initial free flap reconstruction and the debulking procedure, complications, and subjective satisfaction ratings were recorded 1 and 6 months after the revision surgery.


All patients were men, with an average age of 56.3 years (43–69 years), and 9 (75%) patients underwent adjuvant radiotherapy. Partial flap loss was not observed in the study patients, and subjective satisfaction ratings improved after the debulking procedure.


The combined liposuction and arthroscopic shaving method can facilitate the debulking and contouring procedures in patients with head and neck cancer after free flap reconstruction. With appropriate timing, the combined procedure can be simple and safe, even in patients with severe scaring after adjuvant radiotherapy.

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