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imageAbstract: Melanoma excision requires wide margins, leaving large defects. Surgical dogma has taught that definitive reconstruction of melanoma defects be performed after permanent pathology results, with skin grafts favored. However, this results in an open wound and the need for a second operation. The advantages of immediate reconstruction with flaps are single-stage surgery, high patient satisfaction, no period of disfigurement, and cost savings. Our purpose was to evaluate rate of positive margins and local recurrence after immediate reconstruction of head and neck melanoma (HNM) defects with flaps to determine safety of this approach.
We prospectively followed all patients with HNM treated at a single center from January 2010 to June 2012 and collected patient and tumor data and reconstruction type. Outcomes assessed were permanent pathology margins and local recurrence rate. Risk factors for positive margins were assessed.
Seventy-six patients with HNM were treated with wide excision and immediate flap reconstruction with a mean age of 59 years. Five patients had melanoma in situ and 71 had invasive melanoma. There was a 15.4% ulceration rate. Median thickness for invasive melanoma was 2.2 mm. Mean excision margin was 1.4 cm. Median follow-up was 2 years; 5.3% of patients had positive margins on permanent pathology after reconstruction and 3 were reexcised with negative margins. Local recurrence rate was 2.6% with no recurrence in patients with previous reexcised positive margins. Significant risk factors for positive margins were melanoma in situ excised with 5-mm margins (P = 0.012) and desmoplastic melanoma (P < 0.02).
Immediate flap reconstruction after excision of HNM can be safely performed with low positive margin and local recurrence rates. This should be offered to patients, especially those with primary melanomas with distinct borders and excision margins greater than or equal to 1 cm.

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