Whereas free tissue transfer has evolved to minimize morbidity in adults, less is known about outcomes after free flaps in children. This study sought to assess short- and long-term outcomes after microvascular reconstruction in the pediatric population.
Short- and long-term outcomes of free tissue transfer were assessed using chart-review and quality-of-life surveys. The Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument was used to evaluate overall health, pain, and ability to participate in normal daily and more vigorous activities. Patient or parent responses were compared against normative data.
Forty-two patients underwent 48 flap reconstructions at a mean age of 8 years. Median follow-up was 14.9 years. Indications included congenital nevi (n = 19, 42%), lymphatic/vascular malformations (n = 8, 19%), and trauma/burns (n = 6, 14%). There were 21 fasciocutaneous (44%), 19 muscle/myocutaneous (40%), 6 fascial/peritoneal (13%), and 2 osteocutaneous flaps (4%). Major flap complications were observed in 4 patients (9%), whereas major donor-site complications occurred in 2% (1 patient). Valid contact information was available for 25 patients; 16 of these completed surveys (64%). Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument scores for mobility (median, 52), sports/physical functioning (median, 56), happiness (median, 50), and pain/comfort (median, 56) were not significantly different from normative population score of 50. Similarly, median global functioning score was 99 (maximum, 100) and did not differ between flap types.
Free tissue transfer in the pediatric population is reliable and well-tolerated over time. Surgeons should not hesitate to use free flaps when clinically indicated for pediatric patients.