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Reconstruction of Traumatic Dorsal Loss of the Thumb: Four Different Surgical Approaches.

BACKGROUND: This article outlines our methods for thumb reconstruction following dorsal skin loss injury located between the metacarpophalangeal joint (MPj) and the entire nail affecting skin, nail, tendon, and bone in different combinations but with intact sensate palmar skin.

METHODS: Between 1990 and 2015, 24 patients were treated for dorsal thumb defects using 4 different surgical techniques. Five cases of dorsal compound traumatic loss were reconstructed by custom-made dorsal great toe transfer. Four patients with dorsal skin and nail loss located at the distal phalanx level were covered with the homodigital flap with reverse flow vascularization. In 9 patients presenting skin defects between the MPj and the nail, reconstruction was achieved by means of the kite flap. Six cases suffered extensive dorsal skin loss, and reconstruction was performed using different types of radial forearm flaps (cutaneous, tendineocutaneous, osteocutaneous, and fascial).

RESULTS: Flap survival was obtained in all cases. No vascular complications occurred with free vascularized compound toe transfer.

CONCLUSIONS: Reconstruction of dorsal thumb defects is imperative and its approach is strictly correlated to type of defect, patient's requests, and flap alternatives. For defects with nail involvement, the free osteo-onychocutaneous flap harvested from the great toe provides the best aesthetic result in selected young and well-motivated patients. An alternative is represented by the dorsoulnar flap, when the defect is located distally, or the fascial pedicle radial forearm flap, for major dorsal thumb defects, in patients refusing microsurgical reconstruction. The kite flap still represents a feasible solution for medium-size defects with an intact nail.

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