Incidence of Pedicle Ossification in Osseous Free Flap Reconstruction in the Head and Neck

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Oral Oncology



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Background: There are several reports of ossification occurring along the pedicle of fibular free flaps in head and neck microvascular reconstruction, but the incidence of pedicle ossification of other osseous flaps in head and neck surgery has never been investigated. Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted for all patients undergoing free flap reconstruction in the head and neck between 2005 and 2016. Patients were included if they had reconstruction with an osseous free flap and if they had computed tomography (CT) scans at least 1 month post-operatively. Available CT images were reviewed for each patient. Results: Three-hundred thirty four osteocutaneous free flaps were performed. The average age was 64 years (range 8–89). There was slight male predominance with 63.5% of the cohort being male (n = 212). One hundred fifty-five patients had fibular flaps (45%), 108 had radial forearm flaps (34%) and 71 had scapular flaps (21%). One hundred fibulas had available imaging, 73 forearms had available imaging, and 44 scapulas had imaging post-operatively. Of the images reviewed, pedicle ossification was identified in 21 fibular flaps (21%). None of the radial forearm or scapular flaps developed pedicle ossification. Discussion: Pedicle ossification is relatively common in osteocutaneous free flap reconstruction and is uniquely associated with fibular. The presence of pedicle ossification is benign and does not compromise the flap, though it can create concern in cancer surveillance as the lesion is often identified as a new neck mass. As such, head and neck surgeons should be aware of this relatively frequent finding.


Microvascular free flap; Reconstruction; Complication; Ossification; Head and neck cancer


Oncology | Oral Biology and Oral Pathology



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