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

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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.


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.


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.


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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