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Skull Base. 2011 May;21(3):165-70. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1275250.

Surgical ablation and free flap reconstruction in children with malignant head and neck tumors.


We assessed the feasibility and safety of free flap reconstruction in children undergoing extensive surgical excision of malignant head and neck tumors. We performed a retrospective review in a tertiary referral center of all patients aged 18 years or younger who underwent free flap reconstruction following resection of malignant head and neck tumors at our institution. Main outcome measures included complications at the primary and donor sites, functional and esthetic outcome, and tumor control. Eight of the 237 (3.4%) free flap reconstructions were performed on children. All tumors were malignant sarcomas. Ablative surgery was via a transfacial (n = 4) or a combined approach (n = 4). Transferred free flaps were the rectus abdominis (n = 3), gracilis (n = 3), fibula (n = 1), and anterolateral thigh (n = 1). The mean follow-up was 25.5 months. The overall early and late complication rates were 50% and 25%, respectively. There were no flap losses and no donor site complications. Functional outcome, including mastication, deglutition, and speech, was satisfactory. Local tumor control rate at last follow-up was 87.5%. Free flap reconstruction is an efficient and relatively safe technique for reconstructing surgical defects of the head and neck in children undergoing extensive surgery for malignant disease.


Head and neck surgery; free flap reconstruction; pediatric oncology; sarcoma; skull base surgery

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