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Outcomes of major head and neck reconstruction during the COVID-19 pandemic: The St. Andrew's centre experience

  • Thacoor, Amitabh1
  • Sofos, Stratos S.1
  • Miranda, Benjamin H.1
  • Thiruchelvam, Janaviculam2
  • Perera, Esther H.K.2
  • Randive, Nilesh3
  • Tzafetta, Kallirroi1
  • Ahmad, Fateh1
  • 1 St. Andrew's Centre for Plastic Surgery and Burns, Broomfield Hospital, Court Road, Chelmsford CM1 7ET, UK
  • 2 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Broomfield Hospital, Court Road, Chelmsford CM1 7ET, UK
  • 3 Department of Anaesthesia, Broomfield Hospital, Court Road, Chelmsford CM1 7ET, UK
Published Article
Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery
British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Publication Date
Jan 09, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.bjps.2020.12.084
PMID: 33495141
PMCID: PMC7796802
PubMed Central
  • Article


Background The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has generated enormous pressure on healthcare establishments, prompting the restructuring of services to rationalise resources. Complex head and neck reconstructive surgery in this setting may carry substantial risk to patients and staff. This paper outlines the management strategy and outcomes of major head and neck oncological cases at a single regional tertiary referral centre. Methods A database review was undertaken of consecutive patients undergoing major head and neck surgery and reconstruction during the COVID-19 pandemic at St Andrew's Centre for Plastic Surgery & Burns, Chelmsford UK. Patient demographics, tumour and reconstruction characteristics as well as peri‑operative information were determined. Patients were prospectively contacted with regard to COVID-related symptoms and investigations. Results Twenty-two patients (15 males and 7 females) with a mean age of 67 years (range: 36–92 years) were included between March 1 and June 13, 2020. Patients underwent pre-operative throat swabs at 72 h and 24 h as well as chest CT scanning as part of a robust protocol. Twelve free flaps, four loco-regional flaps, four parotidectomies and 23 cervical lymphadenectomies were performed. Two patients required a return to theatre. No post-operative deaths occurred and flap survival rate was 100%. A single patient tested positive for COVID-19 pre-operatively and no post-operative COVID-19 infections occurred. Conclusion Although head and neck surgery represents a high-risk procedure to patients and healthcare professionals, our institutional experience suggests that in the presence of a robust peri‑operative protocol and judicious patient selection, major head and neck surgery, including free tissue transfer reconstruction, may be performed safely.

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