Minimizing free flap donor-site morbidity

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Purpose of review

Fasciocutaneous and osteocutaneous free flap reconstruction has significantly changed the way surgeons reconstruct defects following ablation of head and neck tumors. Over time, success rates of free flaps have approached 98%, allowing surgeons to shift their focus to minimizing morbidities associated with the donor sites. The radial forearm, anterolateral thigh, and fibula free flaps are the three most commonly used flaps in head and neck reconstruction, and therefore each of their advantages and associated morbidities are of particular interest. The present article aims to review the morbidities associated with each of the commonly used head and neck free flaps and techniques to minimize them that are described in the most recent literature.

Recent findings

New techniques such as negative-pressure wound therapy, full thickness grafts, and rotational flaps have been developed recently that minimize these morbidities.


The techniques described in the current review may improve long-term patient outcomes both esthetically and functionally.

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