Background Microsurgical reconstruction of upper extremity injuries is often challenging, and the resulting impact on the quality of life (QoL) may be significant. However, there is a lack of knowledge on long-term patient-reported QoL. Methods In a retrospective long-term follow-up study, all consecutive patients with an upper extremity injury who had undergone a free flap reconstruction were identified and categorized into three groups based on the type of injury. Patient-reported upper extremity function and QoL were assessed using three validated questionnaires: the 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) questionnaire, and the Michigan Hand Outcomes Questionnaire (MHQ). Results A total of 61 patients were identified, of whom 10% had undergone a free flap reconstruction for soft tissue loss only, 62% for an injury accompanied by a fracture, and 28% for a (sub) total amputation. Twenty-one (44%) patients responded to the questionnaires, with a mean follow-up time of 9.7 ± 6.2 years. Patients, on average, reported poorer SF-36 physical component score and role limitations due to physical health scores compared with Dutch norms. Also, they reported poorer mean DASH scores compared with the general population, indicating worse upper extremity function. Mean MQH scores were lower for the injured side compared with the noninjured side. Pain correlated negatively with the total scores of DASH, MHQ, and SF-36. Conclusion Free flap upper extremity reconstruction is challenging. At 10 years of follow-up, the injury and its treatment continued to have a significant impact on the upper extremity function and daily QoL, with chronic pain being an important factor negatively affecting these outcomes.

free flap, patient-reported outcomes, upper extremity,
Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery
Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Van Bekkum, S. (Sara), De Jong, T. (Tim), Zuidam, J.M, & Mureau, M.A.M. (2020). Long-Term Quality of Life after Free Flap Upper Extremity Reconstruction for Traumatic Injuries. Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery, 36(3), 213–222. doi:10.1055/s-0039-3400515