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Soft tissue reconstruction of the oral cavity: a review of current options

Rigby, Matthew H.; Taylor, S. Mark

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head & Neck Surgery: August 2013 - Volume 21 - Issue 4 - p 311–317
doi: 10.1097/MOO.0b013e328362cf94

Purpose of review: This article provides an overview of the principles of soft tissue reconstruction of the oral cavity, and reviews the recent clinical outcomes for described options.

Recent findings: For small defects of the oral cavity, healing by secondary intention and primary closure are both excellent options and may provide functionally superior results. In defects where a split-thickness skin graft is appropriate, acellular dermis may provide results that are at least as good at lower cost. Free flaps, particularly the radial forearm and the anterolateral thigh, have become the mainstays of oral cavity soft tissue reconstruction for larger defects. Recent clinical series suggest that relatively novel regional flaps provide a reasonable alternative to free flap reconstructions for moderate and some large soft tissue defects.

Summary: Soft tissue reconstruction of the oral cavity is a complex task with significant functional implications. There are a large number of reconstructive options available. Systematic appraisal of the defect and options allows the reconstructive surgeon to optimize functional potential by choosing the most appropriate reconstructive option.

Division of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Correspondence to S. Mark Taylor, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, Suite 3044, Dickson Building, 5820 University Avenue, Halifax, NS B3H 1V7, Canada. Tel: +1 902 473 5752; fax: +1 902 473 4016; e-mail:

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