Moving to a more restrictive transfusion protocol: Outcomes in head and neck free flap surgery

Academic Article


  • Purpose: To determine if a more restrictive transfusion protocol results in increased rates of adverse flap outcomes in patients undergoing free tissue transfer. Materials and methods: Mixed retrospective and prospective cohort study. Patients who underwent surgery before the protocol change were collected retrospectively. Patients who underwent surgery after the protocol change were collected prospectively. Results: Of the 460 patients who underwent free tissue transfer, 116 patients in the pre-change cohort (N = 211) underwent transfusion (54.98%) and 78 in the post-change cohort(N = 249) (31.33%) (p < 0.001). The mean number of units transfused was 1.55 + 2.00 in the pre-change cohort, and 0.78 + 1.51 in the post-change cohort (p < 0.001). When separated temporally, the pre-change cohort received significantly more blood transfusions than the post-change cohort in the operating room (33.65% vs 18.07%) (p < 0.01), within 72 h of surgery (35.55% vs 15.66%) (p < 0.001), and after 72 h after surgery to discharge (16.59% vs 8.03%) (p = 0.018017). The rate of flap failure was 6.70% in the pre-change cohort, and 5.31% in the post-change cohort (p = 0.67). In a logistic regression model controlling for potential confounders, transfusion protocol was not significantly associated with flap failure (OR = 1.1080, 95% CI: 0.48–2.54). There were no significant differences between cohorts for medical morbidity, ICU transfer, or death. Conclusion: Our data support the conclusion that patients undergoing free tissue transfer to the head and neck can be transfused following the same protocols as other patients, without increasing the rate of flap failure or other morbidities. Level of evidence: 3 (mixed retrospective, prospective cohort study).
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    Author List

  • Skoog H; Chisolm P; Altonji SJ; Moore L; Carroll WR; Richman J; Greene B; Grayson JW
  • Volume

  • 43
  • Issue

  • 1