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Impact of age on microvascular free flap perfusion in head and neck reconstruction

      Objective

      Aging is associated with structural and functional cardiovascular changes that may affect microvascular free flap perfusion, which is a prerequisite for flap viability and flap success. This study is aimed to investigate the impact of age on flap perfusion.

      Study Design

      Intraoperative and postoperative flap perfusion of 348 patients who underwent successful reconstruction with a radial free forearm flap (RFFF), anterolateral thigh flap (ALTF), or fibular free flap (FFF) was retrospectively analyzed and compared between older (>70 years) and younger patients (≤70 years) using the Mann-Whitney test and linear regression models.

      Results

      Intraoperative flap blood flow and hemoglobin concentration (55.5 arbitrary units [AU] vs 69.3 AU, P = .004; 42.5 AU vs 47.3 AU, P = .016, respectively) were reduced in ALTFs in older patients compared with younger patients. These 2 differences did not persist in multivariable testing (P = .097 and P = .323, respectively). No other differences were observed between the older and younger patients in terms of intraoperative and postoperative flap blood flow, hemoglobin concentration, and hemoglobin oxygen saturation in RFFFs, ALTFs, and FFFs (all P > .05).

      Conclusions

      Age has no impact on microvascular free flap perfusion in RFFFs, ALTFs, and FFFs. This could contribute to the observed equal success of free flaps in older patients.
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