Microvascular reconstruction of the head and neck represents one of the most advanced surgical options available for rehabilitation of surgical defects related to removal of head and neck tumors. The tissues of the head and neck have unique characteristics, and by borrowing tissue for other parts of the body, we are able to reconstruct most areas of the head and neck in a manner that restores the patients' function and cosmesis.
The technique involves using specific areas of the body that provide a combination of skin, muscle and bone and the blood supply to those areas. These "areas" are referred to as "flaps". Because the blood supply is harvested with the flap, it is then considered "free" of its original blood supply, hence the terms "Free Flap" or "Free Tissue Transfer". The flap is then used to reconstruct the area of the head and neck in question. Once this is complete the microscope is used to suture the blood vessels of the flap to blood vessels in the neck, allowing the flap to live as if it were back in its original location, hence the term "microvascular". "Micro" because the microscope is required, and "vascular" because we are working with blood vessels.
The Division of Microvascular Head and Neck Reconstruction in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of South Florida performs approximately 50 - 70 of these cases per year. This establishes the USF as one of the busiest centers in the country performing this complex surgical operation. The department also offers fellowship training in Microvascular Reconstruction through the American Head and Neck Society Head and Neck Oncology Fellowship. Inquires can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.