BACKGROUND: Extensive composite defects in the head and neck area may require the use of double free flap reconstructions. These reconstructions are not only surgically challenging but also challenging to patients. A realistic perspective on general outcome for the patient seems important. METHODS: From January of 2002 to August of 2003, double free flap reconstructions were used in 12 patients with extensive composite head and neck defects following malignant tumor (n = 7) and osteoradionecrosis (n = 5) resection. Six patients had a standardized interview, physical examination, and clinical photographs. RESULTS: All reconstructions were performed using an osteocutaneous fibula flap in combination with an anterolateral thigh flap (n = 8), a radial forearm flap (n = 1), or a lateral thigh flap (n = 1). The total flap survival rate was 96 percent. Mean mandibular bone defects were 10 cm. Mean skin island sizes of osteocutaneous fibula flaps were 67 cm. Mean external skin reconstruction flap sizes were 117 cm. Mean overall survival time was 20 months in patients with malignant tumors. Patients with osteoradionecrosis reconstruction survived free of disease for an average period of 38 months. Three patients (50 percent) were very satisfied, one was neutral, and two were very dissatisfied with their functional and aesthetic results. Objective evaluation of function showed mainly deteriorated speech (83 percent) and oral incontinence (67 percent). Objective evaluation of aesthetics showed mainly color mismatch (67 percent) and flap contracture of external flaps (50 percent). CONCLUSIONS: Reconstruction of these major composite through-and-through defects will often result in a modest functional and aesthetic outcome. Because selected patients require these procedures, the authors give information that matches with realistic expectations.,
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Posch, N., Mureau, M., Dumans, A., & Hofer, S. (2007). Functional and aesthetic outcome and survival after double free flap reconstruction in advanced head and neck cancer patients. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 120(1), 124–129. doi:10.1097/01.prs.0000263656.67904.6a