Functional considerations between flap and non-flap reconstruction in oral tongue cancer: A systematic review

Luis E. Cortina, Daniel J. Moverman, Yinge Zhao, Deborah Goss, Joseph Zenga, Sidharth V. Puram, Mark A. Varvares

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This systematic review aims to provide insight into the ideal reconstructive approach of the oral tongue in oral tongue cancer (OTC) by investigating the relationship between functional outcomes and the extent of tongue resection. A structured search was performed in Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Web of Science. Studies comparing patient-reported and objective measurements of the oral tongue function between flap vs. non-flap reconstruction were included. Functional outcomes of interest were speech production, deglutition efficiency, tongue mobility, overall quality of life, and postoperative complications. A total of nine studies were retrieved and critically appraised. Patients with 20 % or less of oral tongue resected had superior swallowing efficiency and speech intelligibility with a non-flap reconstruction while patients with a tongue defect of 40–50 % self-reported or demonstrated better swallowing function with a flap repair. The data in intermediate tongue defects (20–40 % tongue resected) was inconclusive, with several studies reporting comparable functional outcomes between approaches. A longitudinal multi-institutional prospective study that rigidly controls the extent of tongue resected and subsites involved is needed to determine the percentage of tongue resected at which a flap reconstruction yields a superior functional result in OTC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106596
JournalOral Oncology
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Flap reconstruction
  • Functional outcomes
  • Non-flap reconstruction
  • Speech
  • Swallow
  • Tongue cancer
  • Tongue reconstruction


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