Technical Considerations in Pedicle Management in Upper and Midfacial Free Flap Reconstruction

Brian Swendseid, Matthew Stewart, Eric Mastrolonardo, Eleanor McCreary, Ryan Heffelfinger, Adam Luginbuhl, Larissa Sweeny, Mark K. Wax, Joseph Curry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: Mid and upper face free flaps frequently are associated with challenges due to pedicle length. We sought to evaluate the frequency at which alternative pedicle maneuvers were required for these reconstructions and determine if there was any association with flap survival or postoperative complications. Study Design: Retrospective review at three tertiary care institutions. Methods: Database review. Results: Free flap reconstruction of the upper and midface was performed in 295 patients (108 bony, 187 soft tissue). In 82% of cases, the vessels reached the ipsilateral neck for anastomosis to traditional target vessels. Arterial grafts were required in 2% of reconstructions (4% bony and 1% soft tissue). Venous grafting was required in 7% of reconstructions (21% fibula, 16% scapula, and 3% soft tissue) and was associated with an increase in flap failure rate (19% vs 3%, P =.003). The most common recipient artery for revascularization was the cervical facial artery (78%). Alternate recipient vessels were selected in 13% of cases, including the superficial temporal vessels (7%), distal facial branches through a separate facial incision (4%), and angular vessels (2%). Vein grafting was associated with a higher flap failure rate. Alternative maneuvers did not affect need for intraoperative pedicle revision or complications. Conclusions: In upper and midface reconstruction, vascular grafting, targeting more distal branches of the facial system, or additional maneuvers to optimize pedicle orientation is often required to secure revascularization. Vein grafting is associated with a higher free flap failure rate. Scapular border flaps often require vascular grafting or atypical anastomotic locations. Level of Evidence: 3—Non randomized cohort study 4 Laryngoscope, 131:2465–2470, 2021.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2465-2470
Number of pages6
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Microvascular surgery
  • craniofacial
  • free flap
  • midface
  • vascular pedicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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