Free Flap Transfer for Head and Neck Reconstruction Using Local Anesthesia in Elderly Patients

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Abstract

Background

The incidence of skin cancer appearing on the head and neck areas is higher in elderly patients. Although free flap reconstruction is the mainstay after tumor excision, it is challenging to complete in elderly patients, owing to the high risk of complications and/or mortality rates associated with the use of general anesthesia. In this study, we used only local anesthesia in free tissue reconstruction of the head and neck in five elderly patients.

Materials and Methods

From 2013 to 2016, 5 elderly patients with high risk of general anesthesia underwent reconstruction with either anterolateral thigh free flaps or groin free flap under local anesthesia, after wide excision of malignant tumors at head and neck. For each patient, the following information was collected: age, gender, body weight, anesthesia agents, intravenous fluid, blood loss, site of lesion, flap size, operation time, complications, and follow-up time.

Results

All flaps survived completely. The mean age of 5 patients (3 male patients and 2 female patients) was 84 years (range, 68–100 years), and mean flap size was 199.6 cm2 (range, 120–330 cm2). The mean follow-up period was 26.6 months (range, 5–38 months). No complications were found.

Conclusions

With proper local anesthesia, successful head and neck reconstruction with free flap was possible, and patient prognosis was positive. There are numerous advantages, including: (1) a safer and inexpensive operation; (2) no complications from general anesthesia; (3) the fact that free flap transfer can be performed in elderly patients, even if they cannot tolerate general anesthesia; and (4) allowance of the performance of free tissue transferring in countries without adequate medical resources.

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