Free flap monitoring typically requires specialized nursing that can increase medical costs. This study uses near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) tissue oximetry to monitor free tissue breast reconstruction. We hypothesize this practice will reduce medical costs by eliminating the need for specialized nursing. From August 2006 to January 2010, women undergoing unilateral free tissue breast reconstruction were enrolled and admitted postoperatively to either the surgical intensive care unit (ICU) or floor. Each underwent continuous monitoring using NIRS tissue oximetry and intermittent clinical examination with surface Doppler ultrasonography. Patient demographics, comorbidities, perioperative details, and financial data were recorded. There were 50 patients studied, all with abdominal-based flaps (25 per group). There were no statistically significant differences in patient demographics, comorbidities, mean flap weight, ischemia time, or length of stay between the ICU and floor groups. Four flaps had vascular complications, all detected by NIRS tissue oximetry. Comparison of hospital costs showed an average reduction of $1937 per patient when monitored on the surgical floor (p=0.036). NIRS tissue oximetry is a sensitive and reliable monitoring tool, eliminating the need for specialized nursing care. The effect is decreased cost structure and increased hospital contribution margin for autologous free tissue breast reconstruction.
- Breast reconstruction
- free flap monitoring
- near-infrared spectroscopy tissue oximetry
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