Enhanced recovery after surgery for head and neck free flap reconstruction: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Kevin Chorath, Beatrice Go, Justin R. Shinn, Leila J. Mady, Seerat Poonia, Jason Newman, Steven Cannady, Peter C. Revenaugh, Alvaro Moreira, Karthik Rajasekaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Introduction: Head and neck free flap reconstruction requires multidisciplinary and coordinated care in the perioperative setting to ensure safe recovery and success. Several institutions have introduced enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols to attenuate the surgical stress response and improve postoperative recovery. With multiple studies demonstrating mixed results, the success of these interventions on clinical outcomes has yet to be determined. Objective: To evaluate the impact of ERAS protocols and clinical care pathways for head and neck free flap reconstruction. Methods: We searched PubMed, SCOPUS, EMBASE, and grey literature up to September 1st, 2020 to identify studies comparing patients enrolled in an ERAS protocol and control group. Our primary outcomes included hospital length of stay (LOS) and readmission. Mortality, reoperations, wound complication and ICU (intensive care unit) LOS comprised our secondary outcomes. Results: 18 studies met inclusion criteria, representing a total of 2630 patients. The specific components of ERAS protocols used by institutions varied. Nevertheless, patients enrolled in ERAS protocols had reduced hospital LOS (MD −4.36 days [−7.54, −1.18]), readmission rates (OR 0.64 [0.45;0.92]), and wound complications (RR 0.41 [0.21, 0.83]), without an increase in reoperations (RR 0.65 [0.41, 1.02]), mortality (RR 0.38 [0.05, 2.88]), or ICU LOS (MD −2.55 days [−5.84, 0.74]). Conclusion: There is growing body of evidence supporting the role of ERAS protocols for the perioperative management of head and neck free flap patients. Our findings reveal that structured clinical algorithms for perioperative interventions improve clinically-meaningful outcomes in patients undergoing complex ablation and microvascular reconstruction procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105117
JournalOral Oncology
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Clinical care pathway
  • ERAS
  • Enhanced recovery
  • Free flap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oral Surgery
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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