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The use of tensor fascia lata pedicled flap in reconstructing full thickness abdominal wall defects and groin defects following tumor ablation.

BACKGROUND: The tensor fascia lata is a versatile flap with many uses in reconstructive plastic surgery. As a pedicled flap its reach to the lower abdomen and groin made it an attractive option for reconstructing soft tissue defects after tumor ablation. However, debate exists on the safe dimension of the flap, as distal tip necrosis is common. Also, the adequacy of the fascia lata as a sole substitute for abdominal wall muscles has been disputable. The aim of the current study is to report our experience and clinical observations with this flap in reconstructing those challenging defects and to discuss the possible options to minimize the latter disputable issues.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: From April 2001 to April 2004, 12 pedicled TFL flaps were used to reconstruct 5 central abdominal wall full thickness defects and 6 groin soft tissue defects following tumor resection. In one case, bilateral flaps were used to reconstruct a large central abdominal wall defect. There were 4 males and 7 females. Their age ranged from 19 to 60. From the abdominal wall defects group, all repairs were enforced primarily with a prolene mesh except for one patient who was the first in this study. Patients presenting with groin defects required coverage of exposed vessels following tumor resection. All patients in the current study underwent immediate reconstruction.

RESULTS: The resulting soft tissue defects in this study were due to resection of 4 abdominal wall desmoid tumors, a colonic carcinoma infiltrating the abdominal wall, 4 primary groin soft tissue sarcomas, a metastatic SCC of the leg to groin nodes, and a primary SCC of the groin. The size of the flaps used ranged from 20 x 10 cm to 31 x 18 cm. All flaps survived. However, distal flap necrosis occurred in 4 cases. Three of those cases developed in flaps reconstructing abdominal wall defects, and one case developed in a flap used to cover a groin defect. In the former 3 cases, the flap was simply transposed without complete islanding of the flap. In the latter case, a very large flap was harvested beyond the safe limits with its distal edge just above the knee. In addition, wound dehiscence of the flap occurred in 2 other cases from the groin 132 group. Nevertheless, all the wounds healed spontaneously with repeated dressings. Out of the 5 cases that underwent abdominal wall reconstruction, one case developed ventral hernia, in which bilateral TFL flaps were used without mesh enforcement. There was minimal donor site morbidity in the form of partial skin graft loss in 2 cases. The average follow up period in this study ranged from 6 months to 2 years. Only one patient died of distant metastasis of a SCC of the groin skin, 8 months postoperatively and another 2 patients with abdominal desmoid tumors developed local recurrence.

CONCLUSION: The tensor fascia lata flap is a reliable and a versatile flap, with minimal donor site morbidity. Problems with the flap's vascularity of its distal part should not be encountered, if the flap is harvested within the safe limits and properly designed and the edges comfortably insetted to the defect. A pedicled flap would be appropriate for lower abdominal wall defects, and is better islanded to achieve extra mobilization and allow a tension free closure, while for groin defects, simple flap transposition should be enough. Nevertheless, reconstruction for full thickness abdominal wall defects by this flap is a static reconstruction. We therefore strongly recommend enforcing the repair with a synthetic mesh primarily to minimize the incidence of ventral hernia. However, further studies with larger number of cases are needed to confirm this observation.

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