Large and giant congenital pigmented nevi of the upper extremity: an algorithm to surgical management

Alexander Margulis, Bruce S Bauer, Neil A Fine
Annals of Plastic Surgery 2004, 52 (2): 158-67
The timing and choice of treatment of congenital giant pigmented nevi continues to evolve under the influence of changing opinions regarding the risk of malignant degeneration and the impact of excision and reconstruction on the affected child. Many studies exist to support a notable enough risk of malignancy to warrant excision, yet other series and pigmented lesion clinics suggest that the risk of malignancy does not warrant the potential scarring and deformity that has followed the surgery necessary to remove these giant lesions. To satisfy both sides in this controversy, we have been challenged to modify our surgical techniques in a manner that minimizes the risk of malignant degeneration and at the same time provides optimal functional and aesthetic outcomes for these complex reconstructions. Thirty consecutive patients with large and giant nevi of the upper extremity were treated over a 23-year period (1979-2002) by the senior author. These patients represent a subset of 259 children (12%) with large or giant congenital pigmented nevi treated and followed during this period of time. In proximal upper extremity lesions, expanded transposition flaps from the upper back and shoulder have effectively eliminated contour defects or circumferential constriction in the upper arm and axilla. An expanded free transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous flap has offered a possible avenue for larger lesions (shoulder and upper extremity to below the elbow), and pedicle flaps from the flank (both expanded and nonexpanded) have offered ways of improving the long-term contour in the forearm. Expanded and nonexpanded full-thickness skin grafts were chosen for reconstruction of the hand and the fingers. The authors describe in detail the surgical strategies and the techniques for reconstruction of each region of the upper extremity and then bring these ideas together in an algorithm for assessment and treatment of these challenging lesions.

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