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Laryngoscope. 2000 Feb;110(2 Pt 1):210-6.

Length of stay after free flap reconstruction of the head and neck.

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Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, The Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, USA.



To analyze the incidence and timing of postoperative complications after free tissue transfer (FTT) and relate that to length of stay (LOS.)


We reviewed one surgeon's experience with 97 patients undergoing 100 head and neck reconstructions via FTT for a variety of traumatic and ablative defects


Charts were reviewed for demographic data, type of defect and flap, complications, LOS, length of intensive care unit (ICU) stay, date of decannulation, and first oral intake, any readmission to the hospital, and preoperative radiation status.


Using strict guidelines, 31% of patients had some form of complication, including a 9% flap failure rate. Average postoperative LOS for all patients was 11 days. Average LOS for uncomplicated cases was 9 and for complicated cases was 16 days. For cases with flap-related complications the average LOS rose to 20 days. All reconstructive failures (defined as patients requiring subsequent surgical procedures after a flap-related complication, regardless of outcome) occurred within the first 7 postoperative days. Three patients were readmitted for various reasons: a partial flap dehiscence (postoperative day [POD] 9), meningitis (POD 24), and orocutaneous fistula (POD 22), for a 3.2% readmission rate. Fourteen percent of patients were on a regimen of oral intake, and 13% had decannulation by the time of discharge. Resumption of oral intake and tracheostomy decannulation were accomplished on an outpatient basis in the remainder of patients.


There were no preventable complications associated with early hospital discharge, nor was there evidence of adverse patient outcome. We conclude that early hospital discharge is feasible after FTT reconstruction and is consistent with quality care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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