Background: The purpose of this study is twofold: (1) to stratify preoperative risk factors that predict successful free flap salvage and (2) to identify perioperative strategies that correlate with successful salvage.
Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed on all free flaps performed from January of 2005 to April of 2011. The time until salvage was defined as the end of the initial procedure until the initiation of the salvage attempt. The primary endpoint, successful salvage, was defined as any flap that did not result in total loss.
Results: A total of 2260 free flaps were reviewed, and 47 take-backs for delayed microvascular compromise were identified. Twenty-three of 47 flaps (49 percent) were salvaged. The mean time until take-back, presence of thrombophilia, and preoperative platelet counts were factors predictive of unsuccessful salvage. Preoperative platelet counts above 300 were associated with the lowest rates of salvage. Intraoperative maneuvers were examined, and surgeon experience (defined as >5 years in practice) was the only factor that was significant; however, intraoperative heparin anticoagulation and complete mechanical thrombectomy trended toward significance. The type of thrombolytic agent used was not found to result in a statistically significant difference.
Conclusions: There is evidence to suggest that there may be preoperative factors predictive of flap salvage success, including thrombophilia and routine preoperative platelet values. Shorter time to take-back and surgeon experience may improve salvage, whereas intraoperative heparin anticoagulation and complete mechanical removal of the thrombus demonstrate preliminary evidence as effective intraoperative strategies.
CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Risk, III.