Immediate Emergency Free Anterolateral Thigh Flap Transfer for the Mutilated Upper Extremity

Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung Medical College and Chang Gung University, Taipei, Taiwan.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (Impact Factor: 3.33). 07/2009; 123(6):1739-47. DOI: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181a65b00
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Immediate emergency free flaps are defined as flaps performed directly following emergency surgery due to the exposure of major reconstructed arteries, major nerves, bones, and tendons. The authors document their experience in using free anterolateral thigh flaps in the immediate reconstruction of complex upper extremity injuries.
From January of 2000 to October of 2006, 12 patients ranging from 10 to 59 years old with complicated upper extremity traumatic injuries were treated with immediate emergency free anterolateral thigh flap transfers. These flaps were performed to cover the exposed vital structures. Flap sizes ranged from 30 x 15 to 8 x 6 cm. A variety of flap designs were used, including six flow-through flaps for upper limb revascularization and three tensor fasciae latae components for gliding planes of exposed repaired tendons. The operative times ranged from 7.2 to 12.1 hours, with an average operative time of about 9.6 hours. The hospital stay was from 13 to 34 days, with average stay of about 27.7 days.
All of the flaps survived. No re-exploration was required. Partial flap necrosis occurred in only one case. Traumatized wound infection occurred in three patients.
The anterolateral thigh flap has been popularized as the versatile flap for soft-tissue reconstruction. It has many advantages, including long pedicle length, large skin territory, flow-though and chimeric concept design, a two-team approach, and no need for changing the position. Thus, it is suitable as the immediate emergency flap for upper extremity salvage.

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    ABSTRACT: The anterolateral thigh flap can provide a large skin paddle nourished by a long and large-caliber pedicle and can be harvested by two-team work. Most importantly, the donor-site morbidity is minimal. However, the anatomic variations decreased its popularity. By adapting free-style flap concepts, such as preoperative mapping of the perforators and being familiar with retrograde perforator dissection, this disadvantage had been overcome gradually. Furthermore, several modifications widen its clinical applications: the fascia lata can be included for sling or tendon reconstruction, the bulkiness could be created by including vastus lateralis muscle or deepithelization of skin flap, the pliability could be increased by suprafascial dissection or primary thinning, the pedicle length could be lengthening by proximally eccentric placement of the perforator, and so forth. Combined with these technical and conceptual advancements, the anterolateral thigh flap has become the workhorse flap for soft-tissue reconstructions from head to toe.
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