Autologous Craniofacial Fat Grafting in the Irradiated Field Academic Article uri icon

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  • Autologous fat grafting has been used as a reconstructive modality following the treatment of head and neck malignancy. However, it has been criticized for poor graft retention and unpredictable results, which may be further compromised by prior radiation therapy. This systematic review will consolidate the literature on autologous fat grafting in the previously irradiated craniofacial region and report its effects on aesthetic and functional outcomes, volume resorption, and postoperative complications. A computerized search of Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Web of Science was performed. Screening and data extraction were performed in duplicate. Data were extracted from the included articles, and outcomes were analyzed categorically. Sixty patients from six studies were included. Mean age was 46.06 years (range 13-73) and 37.5% were female. All studies used the Coleman technique fat grafting or a modified version. A total of 94.9% of patients had significant improvement in aesthetic outcomes and 86.1% in the study specific functional outcomes. Mean graft volume resorption was 41% (range 20%-62%) and there were three (5%) postoperative complications. Autologous fat grafting is increasingly being used to optimize aesthetic outcome following head and neck reconstruction, even in the presence of prior radiation treatment. Although the literature to date is encouraging, the heterogeneity in patient population, intervention, outcome measures, and time horizon limit our ability to draw conclusions about the success of craniofacial fat grafting in the irradiated field. Future research should include a large comparative study as well as a protocol for standardizing outcome measures in this population.


  • Gormley, Jessica
  • Copeland, Andrea E
  • Augustine, Haley
  • McRae, Mark

publication date

  • February 16, 2021