Nursing Monitoring of Microsurgical Free Flaps: Identifying and Addressing Knowledge Gaps

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Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery





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Copyright © 2020 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA. Background Microsurgical free flaps require careful monitoring to detect early signs of compromise. At many hospitals, nursing staff provides the majority of postoperative monitoring of free flap patients and it lies within their responsibility to alert physicians of a failing free flap. The aim of this study is to identify knowledge gaps in the monitoring of microvascular free tissue transfer in both novice and experienced nurses and to provide appropriate education to address these gaps. Methods This was a pre- and postintervention study. An initial pilot survey was administered to identify knowledge deficiencies. A nursing educational session on free flap physiology and monitoring was then designed to address these deficiencies. An 18-question multiple choice quiz was administered before and after the educational session. Pre- and post-test scores were compared based on nursing experience. At 6 months, the participating nurses completed a survey rating their confidence with free flap patient care as a result of the educational session. Results A total of 72 nurses completed the in-service training course and quiz. The average quiz score increased from 61.9 to 89.3% after the in-service (p < 0.001). There was no correlation between precurriculum test scores and nursing experience as referenced by total number of years in the profession (rs ¼ -0.038, p ¼ 0.754). The follow-up survey showed that prior to the course 38% of respondents reported little or no confidence caring for free flap patients, decreasing to 6% after the course (p < 0.05). Conclusion Based on the results of this study, nursing knowledge of capillary refill, venous congestion, and basic microsurgical free flap physiology is inadequate. With implementation of a teaching in-service curriculum highlighting these key areas of deficiencies, nurses improved both their understanding and confidence levels, regardless of their level of experience.


Free flap; Monitoring; Nursing


Surgery | Surgical Procedures, Operative



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