Safety of Microsurgery Under Loupes Versus Microscope: A Head-to-Head Comparison of 2 Surgeons With Similar Experiences

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Microsurgery is performed using either the operating microscope or loupe magnification. Use of the operating microscope is considered the “criterion standard”; however, loupes are emerging as a safe and reliable technique to perform microsurgery. The purpose of this study was to analyze the safety of microsurgery under loupe magnification compared with the microscope. Previous studies discussing the safety of loupe magnification during microsurgery have been published; however, this is the first study to compare free flap outcomes from 2 surgeons at the same institution, each using their respective technique.


The outcomes were compared by retrospective chart review of 116 patients, and 148 microvascular free tissue transfers were performed between January 1, 2013, and July 15, 2016, by 2 surgeons (D.S.) and (M.L.). Patients' demographics, free flap failure rate, and other surgical complications were analyzed. Statistical significance was determined by unpaired t test, and χ2 analysis was used to determine statistical significance in proportions between groups.


Thirty-eight percent of flaps were performed under ×3.5 loupe magnification and 62% under the operating microscope. Most free flaps used were deep inferior epigastric perforator or muscle sparing transverse rectus abdominis flaps (52%) for breast reconstruction, remainder of free flaps included ALT, radial forearm, and latissimus dorsi for a variety of reconstructive applications. There was no significant difference between the loupes and microscope groups in intraoperative anastomotic revision rate (27% vs 17%), postoperative arterial or venous thrombosis (4.4% vs 2.6%, 5.4% vs 2.2%), flap loss (3.6% vs 2.2%), or median length of stay (6 days vs 6.5 days). The loupe magnification group had statistically significant shorter setup time (20 minutes, P < 0.01).


Consistent with previously reported studies, we found no statistical difference in free flap outcomes and safety under loupe magnification compared with the operating microscope. This is the first study to demonstrate these findings with 2 microsurgeons both in their first 3 years in practice, with similar training and experience, operating at the same institution and given the same resources, each using either microscopes or loupes for microsurgery.

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