Muscle versus Fasciocutaneous Free Flaps in Lower Extremity Traumatic Reconstruction: A Multicenter Outcomes Analysis

Eugenia H Cho, Ronnie L Shammas, Martin J Carney, Jason M Weissler, Andrew R Bauder, Adam D Glener, Stephen J Kovach, Scott T Hollenbeck, L Scott Levin
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 2018, 141 (1): 191-199

BACKGROUND: Clinical indications are expanding for the use of fasciocutaneous free flaps in lower extremity traumatic reconstruction. The authors assessed the impact of muscle versus fasciocutaneous free flap coverage on reconstructive and functional outcomes.

METHODS: A multicenter retrospective review was conducted on all lower extremity traumatic free flaps performed at Duke University (1997 to 2013) and the University of Pennsylvania (2002 to 2013). Muscle and fasciocutaneous flaps were compared in two subgroups (acute trauma and chronic traumatic sequelae), according to limb salvage, ambulation time, and flap outcomes.

RESULTS: A total of 518 lower extremity free flaps were performed for acute traumatic injuries (n = 238) or chronic traumatic sequelae (n = 280). Muscle (n = 307) and fasciocutaneous (n = 211) flaps achieved similar cumulative limb salvage rates in acute trauma (90 percent versus 94 percent; p = 0.56) and chronic trauma subgroups (90 percent versus 88 percent; p = 0.51). Additionally, flap choice did not impact functional recovery (p = 0.83 for acute trauma; p = 0.49 for chronic trauma). Flap groups did not differ in the rates of flap thrombosis, flap salvage, flap loss, or tibial nonunion requiring bone grafting. Fasciocutaneous flaps were more commonly reelevated for subsequent orthopedic procedures (p < 0.01) and required fewer secondary skin-grafting procedures (p = 0.01). Reconstructive and functional outcomes remained heavily influenced by injury severity.

CONCLUSIONS: Muscle and fasciocutaneous free flaps achieved comparable rates of limb salvage and functional recovery. Flap selection should be guided by defect characteristics and reconstructive needs.


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