Management of Flap Failure After Head and Neck Reconstruction: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Amit Walia, Jake J. Lee, Ryan S. Jackson, Angela C. Hardi, Craig A. Bollig, Evan M. Graboyes, Joseph Zenga, Sidharth V. Puram, Patrik Pipkorn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: To systematically review management of flap loss in head and neck construction with free tissue transfer as compared with locoregional flap or conservative management. Data Sources: Medline, Embase, Scopus, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and were searched up to October 2019. Review Methods: Candidate articles were independently reviewed by 2 authors. Articles were considered eligible if they included adequate reporting of flap management after flap loss and outcomes for survival of reconstruction, length of hospitalization, and perioperative complications. Results: A total of 429 patients had acute flap failure in the perioperative period. The overall success with a secondary free flap was 93% (95% CI, 0.89-0.97; n = 26 studies, I2 = 12.8%). There was no difference in hospitalization length after secondary reconstruction between free tissue transfer and locoregional flaps or conservative management (relative risk of hospitalization ≥2 weeks, 96%; 95% CI, 0.80-1.14; n = 3 studies, I2 = 0). The pooled relative risk of perioperative complications following free tissue transfer was 0.60 when compared with locoregional flap or conservative management (95% CI, 0.40-0.92; n = 5 studies, I2 = 0). Conclusion: Salvage reconstruction with free tissue transfer has a high success rate. Second free flaps following flap failure had a similar length of hospitalization and lower overall complication rate than locoregional reconstruction or conservative management. A second free tissue transfer, when feasible, is likely a more reliable and effective procedure for salvage reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-235
Number of pages12
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • free flap failure
  • free flap salvage
  • free tissue transfer
  • free tissue transfer failure
  • head and neck reconstruction
  • head and neck reconstructive surgery
  • management of failed free flap
  • management of failed free tissue transfer
  • microvascular free flap


Dive into the research topics of 'Management of Flap Failure After Head and Neck Reconstruction: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this