Author(s): Chepeha DB, Nussenbaum B, Bradford CR, Teknos TN
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: To assess the efficacy and associated complications of a leech therapy protocol used for patients with a head and neck free tissue transfer in whom flap viability is threatened because of surgically unsalvageable venous obstruction. DESIGN: Medical record review of a prospective protocol. SETTING: Tertiary care academic medical center. PATIENTS: Of the 450 free tissue transfers to the head and neck region performed by our microvascular program from January 1, 1995, to October 31, 2000, 8 patients (1.8\%) developed venous obstruction not considered salvageable by conventional surgical or thrombolytic therapy. INTERVENTIONS: All 8 patients were placed on a protocol using leeches (Hirudo medicinalis), intensive care unit monitoring, antithrombotic pharmacotherapy, frequent hematologic evaluation, blood transfusions as needed, and antibiotic prophylaxis for Aeromonas hydrophila. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Flap salvage rate, number of leeches used per patient, time needed for inosculation, duration of intensive care unit admission, transfusion requirement per patient, and complications during leech therapy. RESULTS: All 8 flaps survived with the application of this protocol. An average of 215 leeches were used per patient, and the average time needed for inosculation was 6.6 days. The average duration in the intensive care unit was 9.6 days. The morbidity of our protocol was substantial, with intensive care unit psychosis, prerenal azotemia, and large transfusion requirements being the most frequent complications. An average of 13 U of packed red blood cells per patient was necessary. CONCLUSIONS: Aggressive application of the presented leech therapy protocol can salvage free tissue transfers with venous obstruction that are otherwise unsalvageable. The associated morbidity can be marked. Thus, judicious application of this protocol for flap preservation is essential.
This article was published in Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Case Reports