IMPORTANCE: A patient's needs at discharge, particularly the need for nursing facility placement, may affect hospital length of stay and health care costs. The association between age and disposition after microvascular reconstruction of the head and neck has yet to be reported in the literature. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether elderly patients are more likely to be discharged to a nursing or other care facility as opposed to returning home after microvascular reconstruction of the head and neck. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: From January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2010, patients undergoing microvascular reconstruction at an academic medical center were identified and their medical records systematically reviewed. During the study period, 457 patients were identified by Current Procedural Terminology codes for microvascular free tissue transfer for a head and neck defect regardless of cause. Seven patients were excluded for inadequate data on the postoperative disposition or American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score. A total of 450 were included for analysis. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Demographic and surgical data were collected, including the patient age, ASA score, and postoperative length of stay. These variables were then compared between groups of patients discharged to different posthospitalization care facilities. RESULTS: The mean age of participants was 59.1 years. Most patients (n = 386 [85.8%]) were discharged home with or without home health services. The mean age of those discharged home was 57.5 years; discharge to home was the reference for comparison and odds ratio (OR) calculation. For those discharged to a skilled nursing facility, mean age was 67.1 years (OR, 1.055; P < .001). Mean age of those discharged to a long-term acute care facility was 71.5 years (OR, 1.092; P = .002). Length of stay also affected the disposition to a skilled nursing facility (OR, 1.098), as did the ASA score (OR, 2.988). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Elderly patients are less likely to be discharged home after free flap reconstruction. Age, ASA score, and length of stay are independent factors for discharge to a nursing or other care facility.
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