Free flap transfers for head and neck and skull base reconstruction in children and adolescents - Early and late outcomes

Raphael Wolf, Barak Ringel, Sivan Zissman, Udi Shapira, Irit Duek, Nidal Muhanna, Gilad Horowitz, Arik Zaretski, Ravit Yanko, Ari Derowe, Avraham Abergel, Eyal Gur, Dan M Fliss
International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 2020, 138: 110299

OBJECTIVES: Reconstruction of surgical defects by free tissue transfer following resection of head and neck tumors in children are sparse. This study aims to assess the feasibility and safety of free flap reconstruction following surgical ablation of head and neck and skull base tumors in children based on our experience and the recent literature.

METHODS: Data from medical files of all children and adolescents <18 years of age who underwent free flap reconstruction following resection of head and neck and skull base tumors at our tertiary center between 2000 and 2018 were retrospectively reviewed. Data on early and late complications at the primary and donor sites, functional and aesthetic outcome, and tumor control were analyzed.

RESULTS: Twenty-four children (mean age 11.3 ± 5.1 years) were enrolled. Early complications occurred in 14 (56%) and late complications occurred in 8 (32%) of the procedures, with surgical intervention required in 4 (16%). Prior chemoradiation, sarcoma, non-reanimation procedures, and the use of rectus abdominis free flaps were associated with higher complication rates. The final functional and cosmetic outcomes, including mastication, deglutition, and speech, were satisfactory in all patients with one exception.

CONCLUSIONS: Free flap transfer is a safe and feasible technique for reconstructing head and neck and skull base defects following surgical excision of tumors in children. Early identification and precautionary measures against the effects of potential causes of complications may improve outcome. Larger international cohort studies are warranted.

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