Prospective Evaluation of a Negative Pressure Dressing System in the Management of the Fibula Free Flap Donor Site: A Comparative Analysis

M W S Ho, Simon Rogers, J S Brown, F Bekiroglu, R J Shaw

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    IMPORTANCE The fibula free flap donor site has been associated with short-term donor site morbidity, most commonly delayed healing. OBJECTIVE To evaluate the effectiveness of a negative pressure dressing (NPD) system in the management of fibula free flap donor sites that required skin graft closure. DESIGN Cohort study comparing a prospective cohort whose donor sites were managed with the NPD system from June 2009 through March 2012 with a retrospective cohort whose donor sites were managed with a conventional pressure (bolster) dressing (CPD) from August 2006 through May 2009. SETTING Tertiary regional head and neck reconstructive and maxillofacial surgery unit. PARTICIPANTS All patients who had a composite fibula free flap for maxillofacial reconstructive surgery and required donor site closure with split-thickness skin grafts from August 2006 through March 2012. INTERVENTION Negative pressure dressing used to manage the skin-grafted fibula donor site. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Primary: time until complete healing of the fibula donor site. Secondary: skin graft take rate, infection rate, returns to operating theater for donor site problems, delayed hospital discharge due to donor site problems, and community intervention required for donor site dressing. RESULTS All healing outcome measures were similar for the 21 patients in the NPD group and the 19 patients in the CPD group, with no statistically significant difference. Two patients in the CPD group required surgical debridement of the fibula donor site, compared with none in the NPD group (P=.22). The NPD group had a higher skin graft take success rate (15 [71%] vs 11 [58%]; P=.51) and required less nursing intervention for donor site dressings (8 [38%] vs 9 [47%]; P=.75) but had a higher wound infection rate (6 [29%] vs 2 [11%]; P=.24). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Our findings would, at best, suggest that NPD may decrease the rate of return to the operating theater for donor site problems. The fibula donor site healing remains problematic, and our results suggest that routine use of the NPD system in the management of the fibula free flap donor site is not justified from a health economic perspective.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)E1-E6
    JournalJAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2013


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