Background Although previous studies have focused on determining prognostic and causative variables associated with fistula-related complications after head and neck reconstructive surgery, only a few studies have addressed preventive measures. Noting that pooled saliva complicates wound healing and precipitates fistula-related complications, we devised a continuous suction system to remove saliva during early postoperative recovery. Methods A continuous suction system was implemented in 20 patients after head and neck reconstructive surgery between January 2012 and October 2017. This group was compared to a control group of 16 patients at the same institution. The system was placed orally when the lesion was on the anterior side of the retromolar trigone area, and when glossectomy or resection of the mouth floor was performed. When the orohypopharynx and/or larynx were eradicated, the irrigation system was placed in the pharyngeal area. Results The mean follow-up period was 9.2 ±2.4 months. The Hemovac system was applied for an average of 7.5 days. On average, 6.5 days were needed for the net drain output to fall below 10 mL. Complications were analyzed according to their causes and rates. A fistula occurred in two cases in the suction group. Compared to the control group, a significant difference was noted in the surgical site infection rate (P<0.031). Conclusions Clinical observations showed reduced saliva pooling and a reduction in the infection rate. This resulted in improved wound healing through the application of a continuous suction system.
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