[Clinical effect of distally-based dorsal thumb neurocutaneous vascular flap on repair of soft tissue defect in thumb]

Yixiong Huang, Zunli Shen, Yongchun Wang, Shimin Zhang
Chinese Journal of Reparative and Reconstructive Surgery 2009, 23 (10): 1161-3

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the surgical methods and clinical results of repairing soft tissue defects in the thumb with distally-based dorsal thumb neurocutaneous vascular flap.

METHODS: From January 2006 to October 2007, 23 patients with soft tissue defect in the thumb were treated, including 20 males and 3 females aged 19-46 years old (average 27.5 years old). The defect was caused by crush injury in 1 case, electric planer accident in 6 cases, incised injury in 8 cases, and avulsion injury in 8 cases. The defect was located on the palmar aspect of the thumb distal phalanx in 3 cases, the dorsal-radial aspect of the thumb distal phalanx in 3 cases, and ulnar or dorsal aspect in 17 cases. The defect size ranged from 3.3 cm x 1.2 cm to 4.2 cm x 1.2 cm. Among them, 18 cases were complicated with distal 1/2 nail bed defect or injury. The time between injury and hospital admission was 1-72 hours (average 22 hours). During operation, the defect was repaired with distally-based dorsal-radial neurovenocutaneous vascular flap of the thumb in 3 cases and distally-based dorsal-ulnar neurovenocutaneous vascular flap of the thumb in 20 cases. The size of those flaps was 4.0 cm x 1.6 cm-5.0 cm x 3.0 cm. The donor site underwent direct suture or split thickness skin graft repair.

RESULTS: At 10 days after operation, 3 cases suffered from the epidermal necrosis in the distal part of the flap, 2 of them experienced the exfoliation of dark scab 14 days later and the flap survived, and the flap of the rest one survived after dressing change. The other flaps and the skin graft at the donor site all survived uneventfully. The wounds healed by first intention. All the patients were followed up for 10-16 months (average 12.6 months). The flaps were soft in texture and full in appearance. The two-point discrimination value 6 months after operation was 8-10 mm. At 12 months after operation, the growth of the residual fingernail was evident in 18 cases, including 4 cases of curved or hook fingernail. Active flexion and extension of the thumb were normal. The abduction of the first web space reached or surpassed 80 percent of the normal side in 20 cases and was below 80 percent of the normal side in 3 cases. The clinical outcomes were satisfactory in 11 cases, approximately satisfactory in 8 cases, and unsatisfactory in 4 cases according to self-designed evaluation system.

CONCLUSION: The operative method of repairing the soft tissue defects in the thumb with the distally-based dorsal thumb neurocutaneous vascular flap is simple, stable in anatomy, in line with the principle of proximity, and suitable for repairing thumb tip defect 3 cm in size. It can bring a good postoperative appearance of the thumb and little influence on the hand function.

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