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Functional reconstruction of the tongue and deglutition muscles following extensive resection of tongue cancer

Y Yamamoto, T Sugihara, Y Furuta, S Fukuda
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 1998, 102 (4): 993-8; discussion 999-1000
The authors describe their experience with functional restoration of tongue and deglutition muscles at the floor of the mouth after an extensive resection of tongue cancer. Five patients underwent immediate tongue reconstruction using a reinnervated rectus abdominis myocutaneous free flap in which the included tenth intercostal nerve was coapted to the remaining hypoglossal nerve. The rectus sheath strips attached on both cut ends of the muscle were used to create the firm tendinous insertions between the mandible and hyoid bone based on the anatomic findings of the extrinsic tongue and suprahyoid muscles. The postoperative course was uneventful in all patients. All patients presented with good tongue bulk without obvious atrophy. Three patients with subtotal glossectomy demonstrated good cooperative mobility of the reconstructed and remaining tongue and had solid or semisolid/soft diet. However, two patients with total glossectomy did not show satisfactory rehabilitation of the reconstructed tongue. Postoperative electromyographic assessment in two patients showed good functional recovery of the grafted muscle. The cine-magnetic resonance imaging deglutition study in one patient with 80-percent tongue resection demonstrated sufficient elevation of the dorsal base of the reconstructed tongue, contraction of the reconstructed deglutition muscles, complete glossopalatal closure, and elevation of the hyoid bone and larynx during the deglutition. This reconstructive technique is strongly recommended for the patients who have undergone subtotal glossectomy to provide physiological functional recovery of the reconstructed tongue synchronizing with the remaining tongue.

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