Microvascular free-tissue transfer for head and neck reconstruction in Jehovah's witness patients

Judith M. Skoner, Mark K. Wax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background. Jehovah's Witnesses' religious convictions disallow blood transfusion. Major surgery in these patients is therefore problematic. The objective of this study is to describe our experience with microvascular reconstruction of complex head and neck defects in Jehovah's Witness patients. Methods. This was a retrospective review of all Jehovah's Witnesses' patients undergoing head and neck free-flap reconstruction at a tertiary academic referral center from 1997 to 2006. Results. Five Jehovah's Witnesses patients underwent a total of 7 free-flap reconstructions (6 radial, 1 rectus). Four flaps were immediate: 1 osteocutaneous radial forearm, 2 fasciocutaneous radial forearm, and 1 rectus abdominus myocutaneous. One fasciocutaneous radial forearm flap was staged. Two patients were planned secondary reconstructions, both facsciocutaneous radial forearm. Iron supplements and/or erythropoietin were administered perioperatively in 6 of the 7 microvascular reconstructions. Selective external carotid embolization was performed preoperatively in 1 patient. Hematocrit levels were 36% to 46% preoperatively and 30% to 41% postoperatively. Immediate postoperative hematocrit decline was 5.2% (3.0% to 6.0%). No transfusions or blood products were administered. Conclusions. Our case series supports the feasibility of head and neck free-flap reconstruction in these challenging patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-460
Number of pages6
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Bloodless surgery
  • Free-flap reconstruction
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Jehovah's witnesses
  • Microvascular free-tissue transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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