The main objective of this study was to assess resident training in head and neck flap reconstruction, and to determine the confidence of graduating residents in performing these flaps independently. Questionnaires were distributed to otolaryngology residents graduating in 1997. Respondents recorded the number of pedicled and free flap procedures they performed, or assisted with, and indicated flaps they felt confident about performing independently.
Pectoralis major myocutaneous (PMMC) (n = 560, mean 6.59) and radial forearm (RF) (66, 0.78) were the most common pedicled and free flaps performed. There was a significant difference (p = 0.0002, Mann-Whitney U test) between median confidence for pedicled (44.5 per cent) and free flaps (two per cent). Ten of the 17 flaps showed a significant Pearson correlation (p<0.05) between number of procedures performed and confidence in performing them independently. Of the pedicled flaps, latissimus dorsi (LD) showed good correlation (r = 0.67), PMMC showed low correlation (r = 0.19) and other pedicled flaps fair correlation. Of the free flaps, LD (r = 0.64) and fibula (r = 0.50) showed good correlation and rectus abdominis and RF fair correlation. There was a fair inverse correlation (r =−0.29) between numbers of pedicled and free flaps performed.
Higher correlation in flaps uncommonly performed reflects greater operative training necessary to achieve the confidence for performing these flaps independently. As respondents perfomed greater numbers of free flaps, the number of pedicled flaps decreased. It might thus be important to train residents in all aspects of pedicled flaps. Most respondents were of the opinion that additional training in free flaps was necessary for those planning a career in head and neck reconstructive surgery.