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Reconstructive Management of Cranial Base Defects after Tumor Ablation

Chang David W. M.D.; Langstein, Howard N. M.D.; Gupta, Abhay M.D.; Monte, Franco De M.D.; Do, Kim-Anh Ph.D.; Wang, Xuemei M.S.; Robb, Geoffrey M.D.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: May 2001
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Successful reconstruction after cranial base tumor ablation is paramount in preventing potentially life-threatening complications. The purpose of this study was to evaluate experiences of cranial base reconstruction and to identify reconstructive management principles that may assist in achieving successful cranial base reconstruction. All cranial base reconstructions performed by the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center between January of 1993 and September of 1999 were reviewed. Analyses were performed to assess the impact of location of defect, type of reconstruction, type of dural repair, and history of preoperative radiation and chemotherapy on rates of complications, and patient survival. The 77 patients who underwent cranial base reconstruction after tumor ablation during the study period had a mean age of 52 years (6 to 84 years). The mean follow-up period was 28.7 months (1 to 76 months). Squamous cell carcinoma, the most common histopathologic type, was present in 24 patients (31 percent), and 35 patients (45 percent) presented with recurrent disease. Location of defects involved region I (anterior) in 31 patients (40 percent), region II (anteriorlateral) in 18 (23 percent), region III (lateral-posterior) in six (8 percent), and more than one region in 22 (29 percent). Reconstructive methods included free flaps in 52 patients (68 percent), temporalis muscle flaps in 14 (18 percent), pericranial flaps in eight (10 percent), and other local flaps (two galeal, one scalp) in three (4 percent). Of the 52 free flaps, 18 (35 percent) were used in region I, 14 (27 percent) in region II, six (12 percent) in region III, and 14 (27 percent) in defects involving more than one region. Of the 14 temporalis muscle flaps, 13 (93 percent) were used for defects involving regions I or II and one (7 percent) was used for a defect involving region III. Of the 11 pericranial and other local flaps, nine (82 percent) were used in region I, one (9 percent) in region II, and one (9 percent) in a combination of regions II and III. Complications occurred in 21 patients (27 percent): three total flap losses (4 percent), three partial flap losses (4 percent), two cerebrospinal fluid leaks (3 percent), two cases of meningitis (3 percent), two abscesses (3 percent), five cases of delayed wound healing (6 percent), two hematomas (3 percent), one wound infection (1 percent), and one cerebrovascular accident (1 percent). Overall survival was 77 percent at 2 years and 58 percent at 4 years. The type of reconstruction, location of defect, type of dural repair, and history of preoperative radiation and chemotherapy had no significant association with the incidence of complications. Neither the type of reconstruction nor the location of defect showed a significant effect on patient survival. In this experience, local flaps, such as pericranial or temporalis muscle flaps, are good choices for reconstruction of smaller anterior or lateral cranial base defects. For defects that require larger amounts of soft tissue, free flaps are appropriate. With proper patient selection, successful cranial base reconstruction can be performed with either local or free flaps with a low incidence of complications. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 107: 1346, 2001.)

From the Department of Plastic Surgery, the Department of Neurosurgery, and the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Received for publication April 24, 2000; revised July 27, 2000.

Presented at the 69th Annual Meeting of the ASPS/PSEF/ASMS, in Los Angeles, California, in October of 2000.

©2001American Society of Plastic Surgeons