Background: There has been rising interest in computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing for preoperative planning and execution of osseous free flap reconstruction. The purpose of this study was to compare outcomes between computer-assisted and conventional fibula free flap techniques for craniofacial reconstruction.
Methods: A two-center, retrospective review was carried out on patients who underwent fibula free flap surgery for craniofacial reconstruction from 2003 to 2012. Patients were categorized by the type of reconstructive technique: conventional (between 2003 and 2009) or computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (from 2010 to 2012). Demographics, surgical factors, and perioperative and long-term outcomes were compared.
Results: A total of 68 patients underwent microsurgical craniofacial reconstruction: 58 conventional and 10 computer-aided design and manufacturing fibula free flaps. By demographics, patients undergoing the computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing method were significantly older and had a higher rate of radiotherapy exposure compared with conventional patients. Intraoperatively, the median number of osteotomies was significantly higher (2.0 versus 1.0, p = 0.002) and the median ischemia time was significantly shorter (120 minutes versus 170 minutes, p = 0.004) for the computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing technique compared with conventional techniques; operative times were shorter for patients undergoing the computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing technique, although this did not reach statistical significance. Perioperative and long-term outcomes were equivalent for the two groups, notably, hospital length of stay, recipient-site infection, partial and total flap loss, and rate of soft-tissue and bony tissue revisions.
Conclusion: Microsurgical craniofacial reconstruction using a computer-assisted fibula flap technique yielded significantly shorter ischemia times amidst a higher number of osteotomies compared with conventional techniques.
CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic, III.