Microsurgical reconstruction after total glossectomy can greatly improve quality of life; however, postoperative functional results are often unstable, and the effectiveness of total glossectomy remains questionable. To determine the problems of reconstruction after total glossectomy with laryngeal preservation and to examine the functional results of swallowing and speech, 30 patients who had undergone total glossectomy and reconstruction with free flaps were reviewed for this study. The patients ranged in age from 20 to 73 years, and 23 of the 30 had undergone reconstruction with a rectus abdominis musculocutaneous flap. Wider and thicker flaps were designed and transferred and were sutured to suspend the larynx. To maintain physiologic swallowing function after surgery, the extent of laryngeal suspension and cricopharyngeal myotomy was limited. Of the 30 patients, 21 (70 percent) could be decannulated with laryngeal preservation; 20 of these 21 could tolerate a normal/soft/pureed diet, and 1 was limited to a fluid diet. Speech was intelligible in 16 of the 19 patients evaluated. In 9 of the 30 patients, laryngeal function could not be preserved. In four of these nine patients, additional resection combined with total glossectomy caused severe aspiration and recurrent pneumonia. Two patients with preoperative cerebral dysfunction were also poor candidates for laryngeal preservation. Additionally, the transferred flap's lack of bulk in the oral cavity and the advanced age (73 years) of one patient and the poor motivation of another may have contributed to postoperative aspiration. Aspiration occurred in one patient because of local recurrence of a tumor. The presence of preoperative cerebral dysfunction (p = 0.095), resection of the epiglottis (p = 0.005), and postoperative orocutaneous fistulas (p = 0.04) were significantly associated with the failure of laryngeal preservation. However, because of the difficulty of enrolling a sufficient number of patients in the study and the inherent limitations of retrospective studies, multivariate analysis in this study showed that no factors, such as patient age, flap volume, and the type of neck dissection, were significant predictors of laryngeal preservation. Although prospective studies are necessary, the function of individual patients must be assessed so that the study experiences discussed here can be applied to subsequent patients.
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