Evaluation of donor site function and morbidity of the fasciocutaneous radial forearm flap

Remco De Bree, Chris Hartley, Ludwig E. Smeele, Dirk J. Kuik, Jasper J. Quak, C. René Leemans

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Objective: To assess the results of the use of the free radial forearm flap in terms of objective morbidity and subjective patient response. Study Design: The donor sites were examined from 37 patients who underwent reconstruction with a free fasciocutaneous radial forearm flap in the head and neck after ablative tumor surgery. Methods: Patients were asked to fill in a written questionnaire. The following additional tests were performed: resting skin temperature of digits I and V, temperature after submersion in iced water, grip and pinch tests, and goniometry. Results: Resting skin temperature was slightly decreased for donor hands 0.69°C (P < .001) and 0.31 °C (P = .048) for digits I and V, respectively, but recovery after submersion in iced water showed no differences. The strength tests and goniometry revealed no statistically significant findings between donor and control sides. On the questionnaire, 9 patients (24%) reported slightly impaired function, 14 (38%) could not wear their watch or bracelet, 17 (46%) reported numbness, 5 (14%) reported soreness, 5 (14%) reported itching, 6 (16%) reported cold intolerance, 5 (14%) reported bad cosmetic appearance, and 9 (24%) expressed the opinion that they were insufficiently counseled. Conclusion: There is a negligible objective morbidity of a free radial forearm flap harvest procedure, but a number of patients have subjective complaints when asked. Elaborate presurgical counseling can probably reduce these complaints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1973-1976
Number of pages4
Issue number11 I
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2004


  • Donor site morbidity
  • Free radial forearm flap
  • Functional results
  • Head and neck cancer

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