General Principles of Reconstructive Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer

JOSEPH J. DISA, MD ERIC SANTAMARIA, MD PETER G. CORDEIRO, MD, FACS

Current treatment of head and neck cancer follows a multidisciplinary approach. The principle of this combined approach is to provide the patient with the optimal cancer treatment for the stage of disease, and to maximize the quality of life for the patient, with preservation or restoration of form and function. Reconstructive surgical procedures developed over the past several decades have substantially contributed to attain these objectives. Currently, reconstructive surgery is considered an integral part of the multidisciplinary treatment of patients with cancer of the head and neck.

Excision of head and neck tumors may result in exposure of vital structures such as the brain, eye, aerodigestive tract or major neurovascular structures. If inadequately reconstructed, such defects may result in significant complications and/or impairment in the performance of routine daily functions, such as speech and swallowing. In addition, esthetic disfigurement may be very significant to the patient's self-image and social adaptability. Adequate reconstruction after tumor excision is therefore the first step to rehabilitating the head and neck cancer patient—aiming to preserve and restore preoperative activity and quality of life.

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