JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Microsurgical scalp reconstruction in the patient with cancer.

The literature regarding reconstruction of large scalp wounds with free tissue transfer consists mostly of case reports and small series, and none of the published reports focus on the particular problems of the oncology patient. Here the authors describe their experience with 37 flaps in 32 patients, all of whom required scalp reconstruction with free tissue transfer after tumor extirpation. Twenty-seven free flaps were performed at the time of the initial surgery and 10 were performed after a prior reconstruction failed. The authors describe the characteristics of the patients and procedures, including tumor type, wound size and complexity, flaps and recipient vessels used, preoperative and postoperative radiation therapy, and complications. Most (72 percent) of the tumors were recurrent or persistent. The free tissue transfer was successful in all patients. There was a 59 percent overall complication rate with 32 percent of patients requiring a secondary surgical procedure. Most of the complications were wound-healing complications. Although there were two cases of vein thrombosis, these were salvaged by revision, and no flaps were lost. Nine patients underwent postoperative radiation therapy that was well tolerated. Only four patients underwent cranioplasty at the time of the initial operation, and no secondary cranial reconstructions were performed. The authors conclude that preoperative and postoperative radiation therapies as well as the need for expedient tumor resection and immediate flap coverage are issues that make free tissue transfer attractive for the oncology patient who needs scalp reconstruction. Although the complication rate is relatively high and a significant percentage of patients require a secondary procedure, free flap coverage was efficacious for all patients in this group. Cranioplasty is not usually required but, if needed, alloplastic or autologous cranial reconstruction does not appreciably increase morbidity in the selected patient.

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