Microsurgical Reconstruction of the Through‐and‐Through Defect in Head and Neck Cancer: Is it Worth it?
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As health resources diminish, there are compelling reasons to utilize health dollars in a fiscally responsible manner. The reconstruction of complex oromandibular defects involving mucosa, bone, and skin coverage poses one of the greatest challenges in microsurgery of the head and neck. The cancer patient who requires a through-and-through resection and microsurgical reconstruction usually has a poor prognosis. In this study, the authors examine whether this type of surgery is worthwhile in terms of cost, functional outcome, and patient satisfaction. Of 16 cases of through-and-through oromandibular reconstruction performed, the survival outcome of ten (n = 10) advanced cases requiring immediate oromandibular reconstruction (7 radial forearm flaps; 3 scapular flaps) is presented. Six cases were considered cured and required delayed reconstruction. Seven of the 10 patients died within 39 months postoperatively, while three survived up to 68 months postoperatively. The combined experience of these ten patients was examined using the Kaplan-Meier (product-limit) estimator of the survival curve. Results show that of the seven patients who died of disease, five did so within the first postoperative year. More important, among those five patients who survived for more than one postoperative year, three were still alive up to 68 months, representing a combined total of over 15 postoperative years. The probability of long-term survival is good in through-and-through oromandibular cancer patients who can survive to 1 year postoperatively, and it is proposed that microsurgical reconstruction, albeit costly, remains a worthwhile procedure,
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