Predictors of Complications in Patients Receiving Head and Neck Free Flap Reconstructive Procedures

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Abstract

Objective

To (1) determine the overall complication rate, wound healing, and wound infection complications and (2) identify preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative predictors of these complications.

Study Design

Case series with chart review.

Setting

Tertiary academic cancer hospital.

Subjects and Methods

All head and neck free flap patients at The Ohio State University (2006-2012) were assessed. Multivariable logistic regression assessed the impact of patient factors, flap and wound factors, and intraoperative factors on the aforementioned quality metric outcomes.

Results

Of the 515 patients identified, 54% had a complication predicted by longer operating room (OR) time, higher comorbidity index, and oral cavity and pharyngeal tumor sites. Predictors of wound-healing complications (15%) were longer OR time, volume of crystalloid given intraoperatively, and oral cavity and pharyngeal tumor sites. Predictors of wound infection (12%) were younger age, diabetes mellitus, and malnutrition.

Conclusions

Wound healing and infectious complications account for most complications in patients with head and neck cancer undergoing free flap reconstruction. Clean contaminated wounds are a significant predictor of wound complications. Advanced OR time, advanced age, and comorbidity status, including diabetes mellitus and malnutrition, are other important predictors. Crystalloid administration is also an important predictor of wound-healing complications, and this warrants further study.

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