Venous free flaps for the treatment of skin cancers of the digits

Ji Ung Park, Kiwan Kim, Sung Tack Kwon
Annals of Plastic Surgery 2015, 74 (5): 536-42
Microvascular reconstruction using distant free flaps is often required after excision of skin cancers of the digits. The delivered flaps should be chosen with many factors taken into consideration, especially in the digits, in which a very thin, pliable, and durable flap is required to maintain both function and cosmetic appearance. Free flaps, such as perforator flaps, however, for distal or small defects of the hand after excision of skin cancer, require the sacrifices of the main arterial pedicle with deep dissection and exhibit potential limitations regarding flap size and location of the defect. Instead, arterialized venous free flap could be used as an alternative reconstructive method for skin cancers of the digits. Twelve soft tissue defects of the digits after excision of skin cancers (5 cases of malignant melanoma and 7 cases of squamous cell carcinoma) were reconstructed using arterialized venous free flaps from January 2009 to May 2011. The flaps ranged in size from 1 × 1.5 cm to 5 × 7 cm. The flaps completely survived in 9 cases. Partial necrosis developed in 3 cases; however, skin graft was necessary only for 1 case. There were no recurrences or metastases for at least 20 months after the last case. Recently in cases of noninvasive or low-grade skin cancer of the hand, the concept of "preservative surgery" has been a higher priority compared with functional and esthetic aspects. Particularly in cases of reconstruction of a small-sized fingertip defect as 1 functional unit, arterialized venous free flaps offer several advantages, such as thinness and color similar to the hand, technical ease with a short operative time, long vascular pedicle, less donor site morbidity with no sacrifice of a major vessel, applicable to any site, and modifiable to the appropriate size and shape. Arterialized venous free flap could serve as a useful and reliable method for soft tissue reconstruction after excision of skin cancers in the digits.

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