Closed–suction compared with Penrose drainage after free flap reconstruction in the head and neck

O. Madgar*, O. Segal, J. Mansour, D. Sagiv, A. Dubriyan, L. Bedrin, Y. P. Talmi, M. Wolf, E. E. Alon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microsurgical free flaps are common in head and neck reconstruction, and their techniques and outcomes have continuously improved during the past decades. However, there are variations in practice among surgeons between the use of closed-suction drainage systems and Penrose drains. The proponents of Penrose drains propose that the negative pressure generated by the closed-suction drainage system may harm the microvascular anastomosis. We know of no previous studies that have compared the two drains for microvascular free flap reconstruction, so our aim was to compare them in a single-centre, retrospective review of all patients who had microvascular free flap reconstruction of the head and neck region in our department between 1 November 2010 and 1 September 2017. During this period 84 patients had 87 free flap reconstructions in the head and neck, 43 of which had Penrose, and 44 closed-suction, drainage. We compared the number of complications between the groups including haematomas, seromas, wound infections, anastomostic thrombosis, anastomotic revision, and need for re-exploration. There were no significant differences between the groups, despite a trend toward fewer negative explorations in the closed-suction group. There were no differences in complications between suction and passive drainage systems after microvascular free flaps, which suggests that closed suction drainage could be safely used after free flap reconstruction in the head and neck.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1098-1101
Number of pages4
JournalBritish Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Closed-suction drain
  • Drainage
  • Free flap
  • Microvascular reconstruction
  • Penrose drain
  • Post-operative drainage


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