Naso- or Orbitocutaneous Fistulas after Free Flap Reconstruction of Orbital Exenteration Defects: Retrospective Study, Systematic Review, and Meta-Analysis

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Naso- or orbitocutaneous fistula (NOF) is a challenging complication of orbital exenteration, and it often requires surgical repair. We sought to identify the incidence and risk factors for NOF after orbital exenteration.

Study Design

Retrospective chart review, systematic review, meta-analysis.


Tertiary care center.


Patients undergoing free flap reconstruction following orbital exenteration. Records were reviewed for clinicopathologic data, operative details, and outcomes.

Main Outcome Measures

Univariate analysis was used to assess risk factors for incidence of postoperative NOF. PubMed and Cochrane databases were searched for published reports on NOF after orbital exenteration. Rates of fistula and odds ratios for predictive factors were compared in a meta-analysis.


Total 7 of 77 patients (9.1%) developed NOF; fistula formation was associated with ethmoid sinus involvement (p < 0.05) and minor wound break down (p < 0.05). On meta-analysis, pooled rates of fistula formation were 5.8% for free flap patients and 12.5% for patients receiving no reconstruction.


Immediate postoperative wound complications and medial orbital wall resection increased the risk for NOF. On review and meta-analysis, reconstruction of orbital exenteration defects decreased the risk for fistula formation, but published series did not demonstrate a significant decrease in risk with free flaps compared with other methods of reconstruction.

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