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The literature reports a wide variety of reconstructive methods for pharyngolaryngoesophageal (PLO) defects, the most widely used being anterolateral thigh (ALT), radial forearm (RFF), and jejunal free flaps (JFF). However, there is a lack of uniform agreement among head and neck surgeons as to which technique offers the best results. With an increasing number of salvage PLO extirpations, determining the role of radiotherapy in influencing postoperative complication rates is becoming ever more important. Hence, this study aims to provide an up-to-date comparison of surgical and functional outcomes of the fasciocutaneous ALT and RFF versus the intestinal JFF for circumferential and partial PLO defects and determine whether radiotherapy, both preoperative and postoperative, influences the postoperative fistula and stricture rates in circumferential defects.
A systematic review and meta-analysis were performed using PubMed for reports published in the most recent 10 years between 2007 and 2017.
A total of 33 articles comprising 1213 patients were reviewed. For circumferential defects, fistula and stricture rates were significantly lower in JFF than ALT and RFF. Of note, there was no statistical difference in tracheoesophageal speech and oral alimentation rates between JFF and the FC flaps. For near-circumferential and partial defects, ALT has a significantly lower fistula rate than RFF. There was no statistical Powered by Editorial Manager and ProduXion Manager from Aries Systems Corporation difference in stricture and oral alimentation rates between ALT and RFF. Fistula rates were significantly higher in patients who had preoperative radiotherapy than those without. However, there was no significant difference in fistula and stricture rates for postoperative radiotherapy.
Jejunal free flaps still remain an excellent first choice for PLO reconstruction of circumferential defects. For near-circumferential and partial defects, ALT seems to have a better performance than RFF. Preoperative radiotherapy was associated with an increased risk of fistula formation in circumferential PLO defects but not postoperative radiotherapy.

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