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J Reconstr Microsurg. 2002 Jul;18(5):365-71.

Aesthetic and functional outcomes using osseous or soft-tissue free flaps.

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Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The authors compared functional and aesthetic outcomes following reconstruction of the posterior mandible (i.e., unilateral defects distal to the mental foramen) with free flaps containing vascularized bone (VBFs) or only soft-tissue (STFs). Fifty-eight reconstructions of the posterior mandible were performed with STFs (n=32) or VBFs (n=26) and were available for review. All patients (n=58) completed a functional outcome questionnaire containing questions about diet, oral competence, pain, trismus, speech, cosmesis, social reintegration, and return to work. Computer-assisted image analysis was performed comparing facial proportions of patients with STFs (n=10), VBFs (n=11), or unoperated controls (n=10). VBFs yielded statistically significantly superior functional scores compared to STFs in 5/12 categories. Normal scores were found for diet in 31 percent (10/32) vs. 21 percent (3/26) ( p=0.006); oral competence in 56 percent (18/32) vs. 35 percent (9/26) ( p=0.05); and speech in 47 percent (15/32) vs. 30 percent (7/26) ( p=0.026). VBF patients returned to public dining (72 percent, 23/32) more frequently than STF patients (35 percent, 9/26), ( p=0.003). VBFs yielded superior results for midline symmetry with a mean mandible deviation of 3.3+/-2.3 mm vs. 5.8+/-3.6 mm (STFs), and 1.2+/-0.7 mm (controls, p=0.001). An objective method for the evaluation of aesthetic and functional outcomes in posterior mandible reconstruction was developed. This method demonstrated that posterior mandible reconstruction with VBFs is associated with superior results in speech, diet, and midline symmetry. However, rigorous analyses of oropharyngeal soft-tissue defects and the radiation therapy protocols utilized, were not performed in this study. Without these additional analyses, one cannot definitively conclude that VBFs are superior to STFs.

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