Implantable Doppler Removal After Free Flap Monitoring Among Head and Neck Microvascular Surgeons

Adrian A. Ong, Yadranko Ducic, Patrik Pipkorn, Mark K. Wax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: Investigate current practice patterns of head and neck microvascular reconstructive surgeons when removing an implantable Doppler after free flap surgery. Study Design: Cross-sectional survey study. Methods: Survey distributed to head and neck microvascular reconstructive surgeons. Data regarding years performing free tissue transfer, case numbers, management of implantable Doppler wire, and complications were collected. Results: Eighty-five responses were analyzed (38,000 cases). Sixty-six responders (77.6%) use an implantable Doppler for postoperative monitoring, with 97% using the Cook-Swartz Doppler Flow Monitoring System. Among this group, 65.2% pull the wire after monitoring was complete, 3% cut the wire, and 31.8% have both cut and pulled the wire. Of those who have cut and pulled the wire, 48% report cutting and pulling the wire with equal frequency, 43% formerly pulled the wire and now cut the wire, and 9% previously cut the wire but now pull the wire. Of those who pull the wire, there were two injuries to the pedicle requiring return to the operating for flap salvage, and one acute venous congestion. Of the nine who previously pulled the wire, six (67%) cited concerns with major bleeding/flap compromise as the reason for cutting the wire. Conclusion: In this study, most surgeons use an implantable Doppler for monitoring of free flaps postoperatively. In extremely rare instances, pulling the implantable Doppler wire has resulted in flap compromise necessitating revision of the vascular anastomosis. Cutting the wire and leaving the proximal portion in the surgical site has been adopted as a management option. Level of Evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 132:554–559, 2022.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-559
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Implantable Doppler
  • flap failure
  • flap monitoring
  • flap surveillance
  • free tissue transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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