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Current concepts in lip reconstruction

Coppit, George L; Lin, Derrick T; Burkey, Brian B

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery: August 2004 - Volume 12 - Issue 4 - p 281-287
doi: 10.1097/01.moo.0000130574.03032.e2
Head and neck reconstruction

Purpose of review Approximately 25% of all oral cavity carcinomas involve the lips, and the primary management of these lesions is complete surgical resection. The management of the resulting lip defect remains a significant reconstructive challenge, requiring meticulous preoperative planning and surgical technique to optimize the functional and cosmetic outcome. Reviewed here are the accepted techniques of lip reconstruction, as well newer techniques that have been reported.

Recent findings There have been no major advances in lip reconstruction; rather, continued improvement on accepted techniques. The main goals of reconstruction remain the restoration of oral competence, maintenance of oral opening, and the restoration of normal anatomic relations such that both the active (smile) and passive (form) cosmetic outcome is acceptable. The reconstruction should be tailored to the individual needs of the patient and should take into account the patient’s condition, local tissue characteristics, previous treatment(s), and functional needs (eg, denture use), in addition to the size and location of the defect.

Summary The lips play a key role in facial expression, speech, and eating. This requires meticulous attention to preoperative planning and surgical technique to maximize the functional and cosmetic outcome. It is important to assess local tissue characteristics (skin laxity) and previous treatment (surgery and/or irradiation) before the surgical plan is made final. Local tissue should be used whenever possible to provide the least donor site morbidity and the best overall tissue color and texture match. Whenever possible, dynamic reconstruction should be attempted. Careful preoperative assessment and planning will allow the surgeon to reach an acceptable balance between form and function with the reconstruction.

From Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennesee, USA

Correspondence to George L. Coppit, 1301 22nd Ave South, Suite 2900, Nashville, TN 37232-5555, USA

Tel: 615 322 6180; fax: 615 343 9556; e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.