OBJECTIVE - Report our experience with negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) applied to massive scapular and latissimus free flap donor sites, in the setting of microvascular reconstruction for extensive head and neck defects.
STUDY DESIGN - Retrospective case series with chart review.
SETTING - Tertiary academic referral center.
SUBJECTS AND METHODS - Retrospective review was conducted of all patients who underwent scapular or latissimus free tissue transfer by the senior author for head and neck reconstruction, over a 5-year period (2006-2011). In addition to NPWT details, comprehensive patient data were abstracted and compiled, including demographics, operative details, hospital stay, postoperative follow-up, and donor site complications.
RESULTS - Ninety-four patients underwent reconstruction of extensive postablative head and neck defects using either a scapular or latissimus free flap. Mean harvested flap skin paddle size was 140 cm(2). All donor sites were closed primarily. Fifty-two patients (55%) had NPWT applied over closed donor site incisions postoperatively. The other 42 patients (45%) received only conventional incision care. Major donor site complications occurred in 12% (n = 5) of the patients who did not undergo NPWT, as compared with a 6% (n = 3) complication rate among patients in the NPWT-treated group.
CONCLUSION - This is the first study to examine NPWT in the postoperative treatment of closed high-tension wounds following scapular or latissimus dorsi harvest for reconstruction of extensive head and neck defects. Our results suggest that NPWT is a safe technique in the management of massive scapular and latissimus free flap harvest sites that may decrease associated major donor wound complications.