Comparison of Video and In-person Free Flap Assessment following Head and Neck Free Tissue Transfer

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Abstract

Objective

Compare the efficiency of remote telehealth flap assessments with traditional in-person flap assessments.

Study Design

Observational study with retrospective review.

Setting

Tertiary academic medical center.

Subjects and Methods

All patients undergoing head and neck free tissue transfer were included in the study. All patients whose surgery was performed at hospital A underwent an in-person flap check overnight. Those at hospital B received a remote flap assessment. The primary outcome was total time spent performing the midnight flap assessment, including travel time. Data were gathered prospectively using an online survey.

Results

Sixty consecutive patients met inclusion criteria. On the night of the surgery, 31 had an in-person flap check while 29 had a video telehealth flap check. There were no partial or total flap losses or take-backs resulting from the flap checks. Mean (SD) times for in-person and remote assessments were 34 (16) minutes (range, 10-60 minutes) and 13 (8) minutes (range, 5-35 minutes), respectively (P < .001). House staff unanimously felt the remote telehealth system improved their quality of life without affecting their perception of the quality of the flap assessment (P = .001).

Conclusion

Compared with in-person flap assessments in this cohort, telehealth assessments allowed more efficient examination of free tissue reconstructions while yielding seemingly equivalent information. Therefore, remote telehealth flap checks may provide useful information supporting the use of high-fidelity remote data-streaming technology in the delivery of complex care to patients distant from their care provider.

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