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Free flap reconstruction in head and neck cancer patients with prior tumor resection, neck dissection, and irradiation is clinically challenging. The purpose of this study was to investigate the reliability and outcome of using the anterolateral thigh (ALT) flap and transverse cervical recipient vessels for microvascular reconstruction in patients with depleted vessels in the head and neck region caused by previous surgery and irradiation.
Between January 2015 and December 2017, microsurgical head and neck reconstruction was performed using the ALT flap and transverse cervical artery (TCA) as the recipient vessel in 15 patients who had undergone previous neck dissections and irradiation for cancer treatment. All patients had a “vessel-depleted neck” resulting from severe scarring and radiation fibrosis. Clinical data of each patient were recorded.
All ipsilateral TCAs were found to be damage free. Subsequently, free ALT flaps were revascularized using the TCAs. One patient developed venous thrombosis, and another patient developed arterial thrombosis. They were both salvaged within 6 hours postoperatively. No flap failure or mortalities were reported within the 30-day postoperative period. Two patients developed orocutaneous fistula and were further managed with wound care. The mean follow-up time was 11.9 ± 6.0 months (range, 5–23 months). Five patients died during the follow-up period from cancer progression.
The use of the free ALT flap and TCA as the recipient vessel provides favorable microsurgical outcomes in patients with depleted recipient vessels in the head and neck region caused by previous neck dissections and radiation therapy.

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