JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Free latissimus dorsi flap transfer for subtotal scalp and cranium defect reconstruction: report of 7 cases.

OBJECT: The purpose of the paper is to review the results of free latissimus dorsi transfer for scalp and cranium reconstruction in case of large defects with exposed brain tissue, deperiosted cranial bone, and dura that cannot be reconstructed with local flaps or skin grafts.

METHODS: Free latissimus dorsi transfer was carried out in an interdisciplinary approach involving neurosurgery and plastic surgery in seven patients with subtotal and total scalp defects (two reconstruction after tumor removal, two reconstructions after longstanding osteitis, 2x tissue break down after irradiation, 1x defect reconstruction after high voltage injury). There were three male and four female patients. The age ranged from 36 to 72 years. Reconstruction was carried out with a muscle flap (1x) or a myo-cutaneous flap (6x) in combination with a split thickness skin mesh (1:1.5) graft, done in a single-stage procedure. In a retrospective clinical study the following criteria were evaluated: 1) flap healing, 2) esthetic result, and 3) complications. All flaps healed primarily, and all wound remained closed without any signs of infection. Complete wound healing was achieved after 4-8 weeks, depending on the healing of the skin grafts. Secondary skin grafting was necessary in two patients, revision of the donor site in two patients. From an esthetic point of view four patients complained about the appearance of the retroauricular skin island. After removal of the skin island 6 months after the initial operation, all patient judged the result as good or acceptable.

CONCLUSION: Besides the free omentum flap, the free latissimus dorsi transfer is the only option for coverage of subtotal or total scalp defects. Compared to the omentum flap, the latissimus dorsi offers more tissue, has less donor site morbidity, and secondary surgery such as cranial bone reconstruction is possible. Contrary to most authors, our preferred donor vessels are maxillary artery and the external jugular vein. To avoid any vascular compression we are using a myo-cutaneous flap. The skin island must be removed secondarily. In patients were no bone reconstruction is possible or planned, the deepithelialized skin paddle can be used for correction of a contour defect.

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