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Reporting of Cosmesis in Head and Neck Reconstruction: A Systematic Review.


To identify the method and rate at which cosmesis is reported after reconstruction from head and neck surgery among adults.


A medical librarian implemented search strategies in multiple databases for head and neck reconstruction, outcome assessment/patient satisfaction, and cosmesis/appearance.


Inclusion and exclusion criteria were designed to capture studies examining adults undergoing reconstruction after head and neck cancer surgery with assessment of postoperative cosmesis. The primary outcome was the method to assess cosmesis. Secondary outcomes were types of instruments used and the rate at which results were reported. Validated instruments used in these studies were compared and critically assessed.


The search identified 4405 abstracts, and 239 studies met inclusion and exclusion criteria. Of these, 43% (n = 103) used a scale or questionnaire to quantify the cosmetic outcome: 28% (n = 66), a visual analog, Likert, or other scale; 13% (n = 30), a patient questionnaire; and 3% (n = 7), both. Of the 103 studies that used an instrument, 14% (n = 14, 6% overall) used a validated instrument. The most common validated instrument was the University of Washington Quality of Life (UWQOL) questionnaire (4%, n = 9). The most highly rated instruments were the UWQOL and the Derriford Appearance Scale.


Reporting of cosmetic outcomes after head and neck cancer reconstruction is heterogeneous. Most studies did not report patient feedback, and a minority used a validated instrument to quantify outcomes. To reduce bias, improve reliability, and decrease heterogeneity, we recommend the UWQOL to study cosmetic outcomes after head and neck reconstruction.

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Related Authors

Shaun C. Desai, M.D.

Shaun C. Desai, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

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