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When to ditch the ladder and take the elevator: The Anderson SArcoma Risk of Complications (A-SARC) score to guide reconstructive decision-making in extremity soft tissue sarcoma patients.

BACKGROUND: The reconstructive ladder relies mostly on defect size and depth to determine reconstructive technique, however, in actuality, many more variables ultimately inform reconstructive decision making, especially regarding extremity soft tissue sarcoma (eSTS) defects. The purpose of this study was to describe eSTS patients who will most optimally benefit from an advanced method of reconstruction (defined as a pedicled regional flap or free flap) and to create a simple risk assessment scale that can be employed in clinical practice.

STUDY DESIGN: A single-institution retrospective cohort study examined patients undergoing resection of soft tissue sarcoma affecting the upper or lower extremities between 2016 and 2021. We categorized patients who required a pedicled or free flap as having had advanced reconstruction, and all other techniques were considered simple reconstruction. A regression was used to create a risk scale to guide reconstructive decision-making.

RESULTS: The following variables were identified as independent predictors of complications and used to create our risk scale: lower extremity tumor location, preoperative radiotherapy, tumor bed excision, male sex, hypertension, and tumor volume. Intermediate and high-risk patients reconstructed using simple techniques had significantly greater overall complication rates compared to those reconstructed with advanced techniques. Major complications were significantly greater in low-risk patients reconstructed with advanced techniques.

CONCLUSIONS: To minimize postoperative wound complications, low-risk patients should receive simple methods of reconstruction, whereas high-risk patients should be reconstructed using advanced techniques.

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