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We report our experience with free tissue transfer in the elderly based on a retrospective review of patients aged ≥70 years who underwent surgery during a 7-year period. A total of 110 free tissue transfers in 104 patients, with a mean age of 78 years (range: 70–92 years), were identified for inclusion. The demographic and operative variables and postoperative medical and surgical complications were analyzed. Sixty-four of the 110 procedures encountered at least one complication. Medical complications were observed in 25 cases and were predominantly pulmonary, whereas surgical complications occurred in 54 cases in addition to one perioperative death. Successful free tissue transfer was achieved in 105 of the 110 flaps. There was no statistically significant difference in the rate of postoperative complications between patients aged 70–79 years and those aged ≥80 years. Anesthetic time was a statistically significant predictor of postoperative medical complications (odds ratio 1.345, 95% confidence interval 1.117–1.663, P = 0.001). Preoperative comorbidity status, graded according to the ACE-27 index, was a statistically significant predictor of flap recipient site complications. Free tissue transfer may be performed in aging patients with a high degree of technical success and low operative mortality. Chronological age alone should not be used as a criterion when evaluating a patient for free tissue transfer. The patient's premorbid status should be carefully assessed. To minimize postoperative medical complications, duration of general anesthesia should be kept to a minimum.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery

Publication Date





189 - 195