Osteoradionecrosis of the mandible after oromandibular cancer surgery

Naci Celik, Fu Chan Wei*, Hung Chi Chen, Ming Huei Cheng, Wei Chao Huang, Feng Chau Tsai, Yi Chieh Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

70 Scopus citations


Although postoperative radiotherapy has proved effective in improving local control and survival in patients with head and neck cancers, its complications, especially mandibular osteoradionecrosis, reduce the quality of life. Mandibular surgery before the radiotherapy adds an additional risk factor for osteoradionecrosis. This study reviews patients in Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan, over a 10-year period, who underwent intraoral cancer resection followed by postoperative radiotherapy and thereafter developed osteoradionecrosis of the mandible. A total of 24 men and three women with a mean age of 49.9 years were identified and included in the study. In 10 cases, tumor resection was performed with a marginal mandibulectomy; in eight cases, tumor resection was performed after mandibular osteotomy; and in three cases, a segmental mandibulectomy was performed, and the defect was reconstructed with a fibula osteoseptocutaneous flap. In six cases, tumor excisions were performed without interfering with the mandibular continuity. Patients received postoperative external beam radiotherapy into the primary site and the neck, with a mean dose (±SD) of 5900 ± 1300 cGy in an average of 35 fractions during an average of 6.5 weeks. The average elapsed time between the end of radiation therapy and clinical diagnosis of osteoradionecrosis of the mandible was 11.2 months (range, 2 to 36 months). The time elapse between the end of the radiation therapy and the diagnosis of osteoradionecrosis was influenced by initial treatment (Kruskal-Wallis test: n = 27, chi-square = 12.884, ρ < 0.005), and this period was shorter if the mandibular osteotomy or marginal mandibulectomy was performed (the two lowest mean ranks in the test). However, if the initial surgery resulted in a segmental mandibulectomy reconstructed with a fibula osteoseptocutaneous flap, onset of the osteoradionecrosis was relatively late (Kruskal-Wallis test: n = 21, chi-square = 7.731, p = 0.052). After resection of osteoradionecrotic bone and surrounding soft tissue, 22 patients underwent reconstructive procedures with a fibula osteoseptocutaneous flap, and five patients underwent reconstructive procedures with an inferior genicular artery osteoperiosteal cutaneous flap. One fibula osteoseptocutaneous flap showed total failure and another showed a 25 percent skin loss; both were revised with pedicled flaps. The skin paddle of an inferior genicular artery flap was replaced with an anterolateral thigh flap because of anatomic variation of the skin vessel. Once the diagnosis of osteoradionecrosis is established, replacement of the dead bone and surrounding tissue with a vascularized free bone flap is inevitable, and a composite osteocutaneous free flap is a good option.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1875-1881
Number of pages7
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002


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