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Reconstructive surgery may result in prolonged postoperative recovery, especially in frail patients, which in turn may impact delivery of adjuvant therapy. To date, no studies have investigated potential associations between frailty and adjuvant treatment delivery after reconstructive surgery. We examine the impact of frailty on time to initiation, duration, and completion of adjuvant treatment after reconstructive surgery for head and neck cancers (HNCs).
A retrospective review of patients who underwent free flap reconstruction for HNC at a single institution from 2015 to 2021 and received adjuvant radiation was performed. Frailty was assessed using two independent scales: the 11-item modified frailty index (mFI) score and binary Johns Hopkins Adjusted Clinical Groups (ACG) frailty indicator. Timely adjuvant initiation (within six weeks of surgery), duration of adjuvant treatment, and completion were compared between frail and non-frail patients.
Of the 163 patients included for analysis, 52 (31.9%) were identified as frail by the ACG indicator and 24 (14.7%) were identified as frail with an mFI score ≥ 3. Frail patients (mFI score ≥ 3) were significantly less likely than non-frail patients to initiate adjuvant treatment within six weeks (OR:0.21, CI:0.04–0.85, p = 0.046). Frailty designated by either frailty scale was not significantly associated with adjuvant treatment duration. Likelihood of adjuvant treatment completion was significantly lower for frail compared to non-frail patients by both scales: ACG indicator (OR 0.02, CI:9.05 × 10−4–0.25, p = 0.007) and mFI score ≥ 3 (OR:0.01, CI:6.85 × 10−4–0.13, p = 0.007).
Frailty is associated with decreased likelihood of timely adjuvant treatment initiation and completion in patients with HNCs after free flap reconstruction.