Low prealbumin level is a risk factor for microvascular free flap failure

Jonathan Shum, Michael R. Markiewicz, Etern Park, Tuan Bui, Joshua Lubek, R. Bryan Bell, Eric J. Dierks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Purpose The purposes of this study were 1) to estimate and compare the 1-month survival rates of patients with acute malnutrition (low prealbumin level) and patients who are not malnourished (normal prealbumin level) and 2) to identify risk factors associated with microvascular free flap failure. Materials and Methods To address the research purposes, we designed a retrospective cohort study and enrolled a sample composed of patients who underwent head and neck microvascular reconstruction and had prealbumin levels measured in the perioperative period. The primary predictor variable was nutritional status (low vs normal prealbumin level). The primary outcome variable was flap survival. One-month survival rates were estimated by use of Kaplan-Meier survival analyses. Risk factors for free flap failure were identified by use of multivariate marginal Cox proportional hazards modeling. Results The sample was composed of 162 patients who underwent microvascular free tissue transfer during the study enrollment period. The 1-month survival estimates for patients who were and were not malnourished were 76.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 48.8% to 90.5%) and 95.2% (95% CI, 90.1% to 97.7%), respectively (P =.002). In the adjusted Cox hazards proportions model, acute malnutrition was associated with a 4-fold increased risk of failure (P =.04) in comparison with those patients with a normal nutritional status. Conclusions Acute malnutrition in patients undergoing microvascular free flap reconstruction in the head and neck region was associated with an increased risk for free flap failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-177
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oral Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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