Postoperative monitoring in free tissue transfer patients: Effective use of nursing and resident staff

Ryan S. Jackson, Ronald J. Walker, Mark A. Varvares, Michael J. Odell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives: To compare the outcomes of two different free flap monitoring protocols and determine whether nursing staff can safely and effectively monitor free flaps. Study Design: Historical cohort study on all head and neck free tissue transfer patients from August 2003 to August 2007. Setting: Tertiary care teaching institution. Subjects and Methods: The patients were divided into two groups according to monitoring protocol. Group A (n = 49) had free flaps monitored primarily by resident physicians, while Group B patients (n = 45) were evaluated primarily by nursing staff. Demographic and outcomes data, including complications, reoperations, length of hospital stay, and flap viability, were then compared. Results: Overall, 28 (57%) patients in Group A and 16 (37%) in Group B had at least one complication (P = 0.05). Only eight patients in each group had major complications. There were 25 (27%) patients who required further intervention in the operating room: 18 (37%) in Group A and seven (16%) in Group B (P = 0.03). Only 12 (13%) patients returned to the operating room for concerns of flap viability: seven from Group A and five from Group B. The median length of hospital stay was 11 days for both groups (P = 0.76). The flap success rate was 95 percent, with three failures in Group A and two in Group B (P = 0.72). Conclusions: A monitoring protocol utilizing trained nursing staff has no detrimental effect on free tissue transfer outcomes. This may be used to optimize resident time within the current duty-hour restrictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-625
Number of pages5
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009


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