Investigating Patients' Perception of Microvascular Free Toe Flap for Reconstruction of Amputated Thumbs: A Guide for Surgeons during Informed Consent

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Abstract

Background

After thumb amputations, restoration of function and aesthetic can be accomplished with microvascular free toe flaps. However, many patients in clinical practice do not choose this reconstruction despite positive reported outcomes. This study aims to determine patients' perceptions with respect to free toe flaps to improve areas of informed consent.

Methods

A retrospective survey was administered to patients with thumb amputations. Participants were required to complete a questionnaire about patient demographics, the Brief Michigan Hand Questionnaire (bMHQ), the standard gamble/time trade-off questionnaires for utility scores, and a questionnaire investigating potential reasons for electing not to undergo a free toe transfer.

Results

Thirty patients were enrolled in the study wherein 53% underwent a replantation procedure, 27% a revision amputation, and 20% a delayed reconstruction. Mean normalized score on the bMHQ was recorded as 63.54. Utility questionnaires yielded mean measures of 0.8967 and 0.86 on the standard gamble and time trade-off, respectively. From 14 elements, a majority (87%) stated flap failure as a major source of concern, followed by lack of understanding of risks and benefits (80%) and prolonged hospital stay (53%). Cultural/religious beliefs, aesthetic appearance of the foot, and concerns about footwear were not reported as important reasons in 90, 80, and 79% of patients, respectively.

Conclusion

A better understanding of patients' attitudes and beliefs with respect to free toe flaps will allow surgeons to better address their concerns during informed consent. This study emphasizes the importance to discuss about failure rates, risks, and benefits of the operation and prolonged hospital stay.

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