The goal of modern Head and neck cancer treatment is not only to cure the disease but also to make sure normal functions and cosmesis are restored. If minimal invasive surgery can’t be done, major open head and neck cancer surgery has to be performed. In those rare cases there will be a need for comprehensive reconstructive surgery. The most common reconstructions are local or regional tissue flaps, where tissue is brought in from surrounding areas to cover the defect after the cancer surgery. If the defect is too large or in a difficult spot, a free flap might be needed. This consists of moving tissue that has been disconnected from one part of the body and moved to the surgical site. The most common free flap for head and neck reconstruction come from the left forearm. Skin, underlying tissue and vessels are moved in to the area where the tumor was removed and it’s sutured in to cover the defect and restore function (swallowing etc). The blood vessels will be connected to the vessels of the neck (micro-vascular surgery) to provide blood flow to the flap. These surgeries need a reconstructive team, lead by a plastic surgeon. Often the cancer surgeon and the plastic surgeon work at the same time to shorten
the operation, and still these procedures take a full day to complete.