Morbidity and Survival in Elderly Patients Undergoing Free Flap Reconstruction: A Retrospective Cohort Study

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Abstract

Objective

To review a single institution’s outcomes of free flap reconstruction of the head and neck in patients aged ≥80 years as compared with those <80 years.

Study Design

Retrospective cohort study.

Setting

Tertiary academic hospital.

Subjects and Methods

Patients aged ≥ 80 years who underwent free flap reconstruction of the head and neck between 2007 and 2013 were identified and matched by type of reconstruction with a cohort of younger patients. Outcome measures included flap success, length of stay, discharge disposition, complications, and 2-year mortality. Associations between complications and comorbidities were also evaluated.

Results

Sixty-six patients aged ≥80 years were identified, and a paired sample <80 years old was selected. There were 3 flap failures per group and 1 perioperative mortality in the elderly group. There was no significant difference in length of stay or major complications between groups. Significantly more elderly patients were discharged to a nursing facility. There was no significant difference in mortality rates at 2 years postoperatively. No associations were seen between level of comorbidity and complications among the elderly group.

Conclusion

Free flap reconstruction of the head and neck remains a viable option in patients of advanced age. Similar outcomes in terms of flap success, complications, and length of hospitalization can be achieved as compared with younger patients undergoing similar reconstructions. The role of comorbid disease as a predictor of complications remains unclear. There is no significant difference in 2-year mortality for elderly free flap patients versus younger controls.

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