Long-term superiority of composite versus muscle-only free flaps for skull coverage

Geoffrey G Hallock
Annals of Plastic Surgery 2004, 52 (5): 507-10; discussion 510-1
Long-term follow-up of free flaps used for skull coverage in this experience has revealed that serious sequela are more likely after muscle-only free flaps. Over the past 2 decades, 8 muscle and 6 composite free flaps have been used in 12 patients. Debulking was the only secondary procedure necessary in 1 composite flap. However, implant extrusion through 1 muscle flap and chronic ulcerations after minor trauma in 2 other muscle flaps could be directly attributed to the thinness of these flaps. Whether these problems were a consequence of inevitable muscle atrophy or improper selection of too thin a muscle flap from the outset is unknown. Thus, it must be suggested that either a composite flap or a known thick muscle should be chosen initially if a permanent trouble-free outcome is to be expected.

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