Microsurgical reconstruction of the oral cavity with free flaps from the anterolateral thigh and the radial forearm: a comparison of perioperative data from 161 cases.
Free flaps are commonly used for reconstruction of extensive tumor resection defects in the oral cavity. The radial forearm free flap (RFFF) is the most frequent choice. However, a major problem of RFFF is a limitation in its size. The anterolateral thigh free flap (ALTFF) has become popular as an alternative donor site in maxillofacial surgery. We have compared patient data after reconstructions of the oral cavity using the RFFF or ALTFF.Perioperative data of 161 oral cancer patients with ALTFF (45) or RFFF (116) reconstructions were reviewed and statistically analyzed for the following characteristics: sex, histology, primary tumor localization, defect type, American Society of Anesthesiology score, success rates, revisions, wound healing disorders, fistula rates, type of reconstruction, prolonged stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) and in hospital, donor site, flap size, length of operation, and number of follow-up visits.Flap success was 97.8% (44 of 45) in the ALTFF group and 97.4% (113 of 116) for RFFF. The mean size was higher in ALTFF than in RFFF (110 vs. 29 cm(2); P< 0.001). ALTFF needed less postoperative care and developed fewer wound healing disorders (P = 0.005 and P = 0.035). Operative time was significantly shorter in RFFF reconstructions (P = 0.020). Intraoperative arterial spasm was the most significant complication in ALTF and postoperative venous thrombosis in RFFF.ALTFF has distinct advantages over RFFF with respect to intraoral reconstruction. However, the RFFF remains as a very reliable flap because of the minimal variability in its anatomy.