Introduction: Microsurgical reconstruction of complex head and neck defects often requires reliable tissue in multiple spatial configurations to achieve good functional and aesthetic outcomes. In addition to robust perforators, flap inset and wound closure require great caution to minimize complications especially in the presence of trismus with limited space for inset. This report describes the technique and results of our staged approach to flap inset which increases the chance of total flap survival in complex head and neck reconstructions. Methods: From February 2010 to August 2016, a total of 53 patients were identified via a retrospective chart review. Patients who were suspected to have a high risk of vascular compromise and subsequently underwent complex head and neck reconstruction with staged inset of anterolateral thigh (ALT) flaps were included. The flap was inset only partially at the recipient site initially with fewer sutures. At a second stage, after neovascularization from surrounding tissue was established, the flap was partially elevated, divided and mobilized on its own pedicle for definitive inset. Results: Fifty-one patients had complete survival of flaps and had uneventful postoperative course. Six cases required immediate re-exploration to release wound tension or reposition the pedicle. Of these, 4 flaps were salvaged, 2 failed due to small perforators despite anastomosis revision. The flap survival rate was 96.2% and the average time between 2 stages was 24 days (range, 21–28). Conclusion: Staged flap inset can improve free flap survival in complex head and neck reconstructions.
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