Review of the First 108 Free Flaps at Public Health Concern Trust–NEPAL Hospitals: Challenges and Opportunities in Developing Countries

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Abstract

Background

Free tissue transfer is one of the most important and essential techniques in reconstructive surgery. The underlying complexity, steep learning curve, high cost, and fear of failure make it very difficult to establish as a regular service in developing countries such as Nepal.

Methods

A retrospective cohort study design was used to analyze the challenges with and opportunities for reconstructive surgery in Nepal. Medical records were reviewed for patient demographics, indications, types of free flaps, hospital stay, complications, and involvement of a microsurgery teaching workshop.

Results

A total of 16 microsurgical workshops were carried out by 3 international organizations over the study period (2007–2017). Altogether 108 free flaps in 103 subjects were reviewed during the study period at different hospitals of the Public Health Concern Trust–NEPAL (phect-NEPAL) and National Trauma Center. Of 103 patients, 60 were males and 43 were females with an average age of 34.5 years (range, 8–73 years). The most common indications for microsurgical reconstruction were tumor, trauma, and burns. Radial artery forearm flap, anterolateral thigh flap, and free fibular flap were the most common types of flaps. Ten different types of flaps were performed. Four cases needed more than 1 flap; one of them needed 3 flaps. Flap success rate approached 90%. Four patients died in the hospital postoperatively.

Conclusion

Reconstructive microsurgery is challenging in Nepal and more generally in developing settings. However, persistent technical support such as training and workshops can make it feasible.

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