The purpose of this study is to report the outcomes of patients with locally advanced (T3-T4) oral cancers undergoing surgical resection and free tissue reconstruction without the lower lip-split procedure. In this retrospective chart review, we analyzed 86 consecutive patients presenting between July 2000 and December 2009 at our university-based, tertiary care medical center. The oral site distribution was: 73 (86%) oral cavity, 10 (12%) oropharynx, and 3 (2%) combined. The average specimen volume was 240.3 cm 3 (range 17.5-3718 cm 3). Sixty-seven patients (78%) had widely clear histopathologic margins. Performing mandibulectomy had no advantage over maintaining mandible continuity to achieve clear margins (P = 0.97). Nineteen patients (22%) had focally involved microscopic margins; 10 (53%) soft tissue, seven (37%) bone, and two (10%) both. Thirty patients (35%) had postoperative complications, and 16 patients (19%) had a salivary fistula. The flaps used were: 39 fibula (45%), 25 radial forearm (29%), eight anterolateral thigh (9%), eight rectus abdominus (9%), three scapula (4%), and three iliac crest (4%). The average length of bone used was 9 cm (range 5-16 cm). The average soft tissue area was 99.7 cm 2 (range 24-300 cm 2). Nine patients (10%) had either partial or total flap loss. The lower lip-split procedure for surgical exposure is unnecessary for both oncologic resection and reconstruction for locally advanced oral cancers. Clear margins, relatively facile flap inset with high success rates, and acceptable complication rates can be safely achieved in this patient population.
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