Double-island anterolateral thigh free flap used in reconstruction for salvage surgery for locally recurrent head and neck carcinoma

Salvage surgery is usually the only treatment for recurrent head and neck tumors but often poses a challenge to surgeons due to post-resected defects at 2 or more sites. Here we present the outcomes and rationale for reconstruction by a double-island anterolateral thigh (ALT) free flap following the salvage surgery.Patients treated with double-island ALT free flaps in salvage surgery between September 2012 and January 2017 at West China Hospital, Sichuan University were retrospectively viewed.A total of 18 patients (15 males) underwent reconstruction with double-island ALT free flaps (range from 40 to 77 years old). All patients had recurrent tumors after surgery and/or chemoradiotherapy and were selected for salvage surgery by a multidisciplinary team. The flaps were initially harvested as 7 cm × 7 cm to 16 cm × 10 cm single blocks and then divided into double-island flaps with each individual paddle ranging from5 cm × 3 cm to 10 cm × 8 cm. The average flap thickness was 3.5 cm (range from 2 to 6 cm), and the average pedicle length was 8 cm (range from 6 to 10 cm). A total of 18 arteries and 32 veins were anastomosed. Three patients developed fistula, 1 developed flap failure due to thrombosis and was re-operated with a pedicle flap. One patient died of pulmonary infection 6 months after the operation.Flap reconstruction for complex head and neck defects after salvage surgery remains challenging, but double-island ALT free flap reconstruction conducted by a multidisciplinary team and experienced surgeons would have a role in this setting