Recent studies have reported sensory recovery in innervated (“sensate”) microvascular free flaps used for oromandibular reconstruction. To evaluate the efficacy of sensate free flaps used for head and neck reconstruction, the natural outcome of nonin-nervated flaps must be known. Data on the natural recovery of sensation in noninnervated head and neck free flaps are lacking in the literature. This study evaluates the degree of spontaneous sensory reinner-vation in noninnervated microvascular free flaps used for reconstruction of a variety of head and neck defects. Eighteen flaps were evaluated—9 fibula os-seocutaneous and 9 radial forearm. The fibula flaps were used to reconstruct composite defects of the mandible and oral cavity mucosa. The radial forearm flaps were used to reconstruct defects resulting from floor of mouth resection (3), total glossectomy (2), pharyngectomy (1), full-thickness cheek (1), and facial skin (2). Sensation to pinprick, light touch, and temperature discrimination were tested over the skin paddle at time intervals ranging from 6 to 24 months. The pattern of sensory reinnervation in these noninnervated flaps over time and by location is discussed.
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