Background: Most data on secondary intention healing of skin cancer defects in the head and neck are empirical and descriptive. This study statistically evaluates the prognostic value of several wound characteristics and location on the final cosmetic result of skin defects left to heal by secondary intention after tumor removal.
Methods: A chart review of all facial reconstructions using secondary intention healing performed in one center between 1992 and 2001 was undertaken. Patient and wound characteristics were analyzed. For analysis of cosmetic outcome, the most recent photographs of the scars were assessed by three independent raters using a categorical judgment scale.
Results: There were a total of 89 patients with 95 wounds. Forty-three percent of the wounds (41 of 95) healed with an “excellent” outcome. In the univariate analysis, the rating excellent was given more often to scars derived from wounds that were small and superficial and that were located in concave areas of the face, in particular, near the medial canthus and medial cheek. Multivariable logistic regression revealed independent associations of an excellent cosmetic outcome with wound size and contour of wound surface only.
Conclusion: This is the first study presenting statistical evidence of what has been known empirically for a long time: wounds in concave areas of the face that are left to heal by secondary intention have a high chance of healing with an excellent cosmetic outcome, especially if these wounds are small, superficial, and located near the medial canthus and medial cheek.