More than just the helix: A series of free flaps from the ear

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Abstract

Aim

We herein present our experience using free flaps harvested from the ear region in facial, nasal and intraoral reconstruction.

Patients and Methods

Between 2011 and 2016, 19 patients underwent reconstruction using 20 free flaps from the ear region based on the superficial temporal vessels. There were 10 males and 9 females with a mean age of 57 years. Defect aetiology consisted of post-tumour ablation (n = 15), trauma (n = 2) and burn scar (n = 2). Defect location involved the nose (n = 13), floor of mouth (n = 3), tongue (n = 1), lower eyelid (n = 1), and lower lip (n = 1).

Results

Twelve helical, seven temporal artery posterior auricular skin (TAPAS), and one hemiauricular flap were performed. One patient required venous re-anastomosis but complete flap necrosis eventually occurred. This patient later underwent successful contralateral helix flap reconstruction. Overall flap survival was 95%. Follow-up ranged from 12 to 69 months. A moderate to excellent aesthetic and functional outcome was achieved in all cases, but most (13/19) required later minor refinement surgery.

Conclusion

As a versatile source of free flap options, the ear can provide more than just the helix.

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