Factors Impacting Discharge Destination Following Head and Neck Microvascular Reconstruction

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Objective: Determine which variables impact postoperative discharge destination following head and neck microvascular free flap reconstruction. Study Design: Retrospective review of prospectively collected databases. Methods: Consecutive patients undergoing head and neck microvascular free flap reconstruction between January 2010 and December 2019 (n = 1972) were included. Preoperative, operative and postoperative variables were correlated with discharge destination (home, skilled nursing facility [SNF], rehabilitation facility, death). Results: The mean age of patients discharged home was lower (60 SD ± 13, n = 1450) compared to those discharged to an SNF (68 SD ± 14, n = 168) or a rehabilitation facility (71 SD ± 14, n = 200; p < 0.0001). Operative duration greater than 10 h correlated with a higher percentage of patients being discharged to a rehabilitation or SNF (25% vs. 15%; p < 0.001). Patients were less likely to be discharged home if they had a known history of cardiac disease (71% vs. 82%; p < 0.0001). Patients were less likely to be discharged home if they experienced alcohol withdrawal (67% vs. 80%; p = 0.006), thromboembolism (59% vs. 80%; p = 0.001), a pulmonary complication (46% vs. 81%; p < 0.0001), a cardiac complication (46% vs. 80%; p < 0.0001), or a cerebral vascular event (25% vs. 80%; p < 0.0001). There was no correlation between discharge destination and occurrence of postoperative wound infection, salivary fistula, partial tissue necrosis or free flap failure. Thirty-day readmission rates were similar when stratified by discharge destination. Conclusion: There was no correlation with the anatomic site, free flap donor selection, or free flap survival and discharge destination. Patient age, operative duration and occurrence of a medical complication postoperatively did correlate with discharge destination. Level of Evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 133:95–104, 2023.

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