Use of liposuction for secondary revision of irradiated and nonirradiated free flaps
Head and Neck Neoplasms
Oral Surgical Procedures
Reconstructive Surgical Procedures
A number of patients with free tissue transfer require secondary revision to improve contour and regional definition to maximize function or appearance. However, there is controversy with regard to whether irradiated free flaps can be revised safely using liposuction. The purpose of this study was to compare the outcomes of revisionary procedures requiring liposuction in irradiated versus nonirradiated flaps. From December 1992 to July 2001, office and hospital records were reviewed retrospectively to identify patients who had undergone free tissue transfer and subsequent flap revision at a single institution. The number of revisions, amount of fat aspirated, timing of revision and the postoperative complications including infection, hematoma, wound dehiscence, and flap loss were reviewed. A total of 41 flap revisions using liposuction alone or with direct excision were performed on 33 free flaps (31 head and neck, 1 chest wall, and 1 extremity). The rectus musculocutaneous flap was the most commonly revised (88%). The average length of time to secondary revision of patients who had received postoperative radiotherapy to their flaps was significantly higher that those whose flaps had not been irradiated (P < 0.05). There were no postoperative complications except for 1 partial (20%) flap loss in a patient whose flap was irradiated. The difference in complication rates between the irradiated and nonirradiated group was not statistically significant. Secondary free flap revision using liposuction and direct excision is a safe technique for recontouring free flaps. There was no significant difference in complication rates for irradiated and nonirradiated flaps. Postoperative radiation therapy is therefore not a contraindication to secondary revision. However, these procedures should be delayed for several months after the acute effects of radiation have resolved.