Evaluation of post-operative donor site disability remains unaddressed in radial forearm free flap cases. This study aimed to assess donor site dysfunction following radial forearm free flap harvest using validated general, disease-specific and site-specific disability questionnaires.
In this retrospective case series of 24 patients at a tertiary academic medical centre, patients were assessed using the Short Form 36 Health Survey, Short Musculoskeletal Function Assessment questionnaire, and Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire. One-sample z-tests were performed, comparing means of the cohort to controls.
Compared to population controls, the cohort had higher mean scores for the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire (18.22 vs 10.1, p < 0.01), and Short Musculoskeletal Function Assessment questionnaire bothersome index (21.44 vs 13.77, p = 0.04), and a lower mean score for the Short Form 36 Health Survey physical component (38.88 vs 50, p < 0.01), indicating a greater disability for the cohort compared to controls.
Radial forearm free flap harvest causes significant long-term donor site disability in head and neck tumour patients. The Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire is a concise tool for measuring this dysfunction.