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J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2008 Sep;66(9):1856-63. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2008.04.021.

Quality of life evaluation for patients receiving vascularized versus nonvascularized bone graft reconstruction of segmental mandibular defects.

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School of Dentistry, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0440, USA.



Head and neck neoplasms requiring surgical resection of the mandible can have negative consequences on patient quality of life. For patients with segmental resections, the vascularized fibular free flap and nonvascularized iliac crest are frequently used. The fibula has surpassed the iliac crest in popularity due to the success associated with a vascularized graft; however, there still remain significant advantages with the nonvascularized graft. There has not been a study comparing the quality of life associated with these two methods of mandibular reconstruction. We carried out the following study to compare quality of life of both grafts in an attempt to help guide therapeutic decisions.


Twenty-nine patients at the University of California, San Francisco undergoing mandibular resection with subsequent reconstruction with either a vascularized fibular free flap or nonvascularized iliac crest bone graft were identified. Patient quality of life was assessed with a modified version of the University of Washington Quality of Life Questionnaire, version 4.


Eighteen patients responded (10 reconstructed previously with a fibula, 8 with iliac crest reconstructions). Patients with an iliac crest bone graft had significantly better chewing and swallowing scores (P = .04, P = .049 respectively). There was also a trend for better taste (P = .067). When patients with a history of radiation therapy were excluded, differences in chewing and swallowing were not significant (P = .26 and P = .31 respectively), whereas taste was (P = .038).


These findings suggest that reconstruction with the iliac crest had benefits in improved function (chewing, swallowing, and taste) rather than esthetics, donor site morbidity, or psychologic discomfort as was anticipated. However, prior radiation, a relatively frequent therapy in this patient population, presents an important confounding factor. Radiation therapy is difficult to control for without limiting an already scarce patient pool, and bears with it significant morbidity that likely influenced these findings. Further study is warranted to confirm the results and further distinguish the 2 groups.

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