BACKGROUND: The significance of the oral vestibule is often underappreciated in composite craniomaxillofacial reconstruction, and its deficiency results in considerable incompetence. Results of traditional vestibuloplasty techniques are unpredictable when the recipient bed is compromised in the setting of trauma or irradiation. The authors present an alternative approach for restoring the intractable oral vestibule with free tissue transfer. METHODS: An institutional review board-approved retrospective review of patients who underwent oral vestibular reconstruction was conducted at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital from 2002 to 2007. RESULTS: Thirteen patients were identified: six defects resulted from tumor extirpation, six resulted from traumatic injury, and one resulted from infection. There were eight men and five women, with a mean age of 46 years. Thirteen free tissue transfers of the oral vestibule were conducted: six ulnar forearm and seven anterolateral thigh perforator flaps. The average follow-up was 17 months. There were no flap failures and only one complication noted, which did not result in negative sequelae. The functional results were good, with all patients experiencing increased labial excursion and subjective improvement in the handling of food bolus and saliva. CONCLUSIONS: Preservation of oral vestibular height, width, and volume is essential for aesthetic appearance and functional competence. Free tissue transfer provides an innovative alternative in the management of the intractable and obliterated oral vestibule. It can be performed successfully, providing excellent results predictably.
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