Health-related quality of life, surgical and aesthetic outcomes following microvascular free flap reconstructions: an 8-year institutional review

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION

Microvascular free flap reconstruction has revolutionised the reconstruction of complex defects of traumatic, oncological, congenital and infectious aetiologies. Complications of microvascular free flap procedures impact negatively on patient post-operative course and outcome.

METHODS

We performed a retrospective analysis of 102 consecutive patients undergoing 108 free flap procedures at a tertiary referral centre over an 8-year period. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors predictive of free flap complications. Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and aesthetic outcomes were assessed using the Short Form 36 questionnaire and a satisfaction visual analogue scale respectively.

RESULTS

In total, 108 free tissue transfers were performed; 23% were fasciocutaneous free flaps, 69% musculocutaneous and 8% osteoseptocutaneous. The overall flap success rate was 92.6%. Over a third of patients (34.3%) had flap-related complications ranging from minor wound dehiscence to total flap loss. ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) grade ≥ (OR: 16.9, 95% CI: 15.3-18.1, p<0.009), history of smoking (OR: 6.1, 95% CI: 5.5-7.2, p<0.049), body mass index ≥25kg/m2 (OR: 21.3, 95% CI: 20.8-22.1, p<0.003), low albumin (odds ratio [OR]: 2.2, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.2-3.9, p<0.003) and peripheral vascular disease (OR: 6.9, 95% CI: 5.9-7.5, p<0.036) were identified as factors independently predictive of free flap complications.

CONCLUSIONS

Patients undergoing uncomplicated free flap surgery and those reporting superior post-operative flap aesthesis have higher HRQoL scores. Microvascular free tissue transfer has revolutionised our approach to the reconstruction of complex defects, providing a safe, reliable procedure to restore functionality and quality of life for patients.

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