Microvascular Reconstructive Surgery of the Head and Neck

Patients with advanced head and neck cancer need techniques for rebuilding defects that are created during surgery. Many patients need transfer of muscle, soft tissue or bone from other parts of the body in order to be able to reconstruct these defects.
Free tissue transfer is an advanced surgical technique that is used in reconstruction of head and neck cancer defects to improve cosmetic outcomes and function. For example, if cancer invades the bone of the jaw it needs to be removed and is rebuilt with bone from the leg. If the patient lost a portion of the tongue to cancer it can be reconstructed with tissue from the arm or leg.
In free tissue transfer we remove healthy tissue -muscle, bone, soft tissue- from the arm, leg or back and transfer it to the defect created in the cancer surgery. A microscope is then used to suture an artery and a vein in the head and neck to the reconstruction so that the tissue has fresh blood flow making it alive.
Dr. Giráldez Rodríguez and the team at the Voice and Swallowing Center of Puerto Rico are the only trained head and neck cancer surgeons in the Caribbean that use this surgical technique to remove cancer and replace it with healthy tissue. They have also built a surgical ward with the necessary elements for the success of care of head and neck cancer patients. Free tissue transfer may also be used in:

  • Osteoradionecrosis of the mandible or maxilla
  • Closure of oronasal fistula
  • Velopalatal insufficiency
  • Non healing wounds of the head and neck