IMPORTANCE Evidence supports short courses of perioperative antibiotics for patients receiving minor head and neck procedures. Few studies have addressed antibiotic prophylaxis for patients undergoing free flap reconstruction of head and neck defects. OBJECTIVE To determine ideal antibiotic prophylaxis in patients undergoing head and neck free flap reconstruction. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS Retrospective cohort study of 427 adults receiving free flap reconstruction of head and neck defects at 2 affiliated tertiary care academic hospitals between January 1, 2006, and January 28, 2013. EXPOSURES Prophylactic antibiotic type and duration were recorded from patient records. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Outcome datawere abstracted from patients' medical records including infection at the surgical sites and distant nonsurgical sites and flap site complications including flap compromise, dehiscence, or fistula. Multivariate logistic regression was used to determine the association of risk factors with the primary outcome of any infection within 30 days of surgery. RESULTS Ninety-six patients (22.5%) received prophylactic antibiotics for 24 hours or less, and 331 patients received prolonged courses of prophylactic antibiotics. The majority of patients received ampicillin-sulbactam alone for prophylaxis (53.2%), while 36.5%received clindamycin alone and 10.3%received an alternative regimen. Postoperative infections occurred in 46%of patients, and 22%of patients had an infection at the flap inset site or neck incision. The use of clindamycin (odds ratio [OR], 2.54; 95%CI, 1.25-5.14 [P =.01]) was associated with an increased risk of postoperative infection; extended duration of antibiotics (OR, 0.63; 95%CI, 0.34-1.19 [P =.18]) was not associated with increased risk of postoperative infection. By multivariate analysis, use of clindamycin (OR, 6.71; 95%CI, 1.83-24.60 [P =.004]) and oral tobacco use (OR, 1.20; 95%CI, 1.04-1.39 [P =.02]), but not extended course of prophylactic antibiotics (OR, 0.75; 95%CI, 0.30-1.86 [P =.53]), were associated with a higher risk of postoperative flap or neck infections. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE The choice of antibiotic appears to affect the rate of all postoperative infections and flap site infections more than the duration of antibiotics following head and neck free flap reconstruction. At our institutions, ampicillin-sulbactam is the preferred prophylactic antibiotic for major clean-contaminated head and neck procedures when possible.
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