Restoring abdominal wall integrity in contaminated tissue-deficient wounds using autologous fascia grafts

J J Disa, N H Goldberg, J M Carlton, B C Robertson, S Slezak
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 1998, 101 (4): 979-86
Necrotizing abdominal wall infections, enteric fistulae, or exposed prosthetic material after ventral hernia repair often results in a loss of abdominal wall integrity. Further surgical reconstruction with prosthetic material is usually contraindicated in the contaminated wound because of the high infection rate necessitating prosthetic removal and further abdominal wall debridement. Consequently, for the past 9 years, we have been using free grafts of autologous fascia lata to replace deficient abdominal wall fascia and muscle in situations where prosthetic material is contraindicated and local tissue rearrangement (i.e., component separation) would be inadequate. Thirty-two patients (mean age 59 years) underwent abdominal wall reconstruction with autologous fascia lata grafts. Indications included exposed mesh (31 percent), enteric fistulae (28 percent), enteric contamination (22 percent), wound infection (13 percent), and immunosuppression alone (6 percent); 31 percent of all patients were immunosuppressed secondary to either a solid organ transplant or a systemic inflammatory disorder. Fascia grafts (mean size 10 x 17 cm) were sutured to the surrounding abdominal wall and covered by local skin flap advancement and/or myocutaneous flap rotation. All abdominal reconstructions were initially successful. Subsequent local abdominal wall complications included cellulitis (n = 3), seroma (n = 2), and skin dehiscence with exposed fascia grafts (n = 7). Five of seven patients with skin dehiscence healed by secondary intention, whereas two had split-thickness skin grafts successfully applied to the granulating fascia. Thigh donor site complications included hematoma (n = 1), skin dehiscence (n = 1), and seroma (n = 2). There have been no cases of lateral knee instability. The average follow-up period is 27 months (range 3 to 106 months). Recurrent hernia has been seen in three patients (9 percent). Interestingly, laparotomy has been performed through an intact fascia lata patch in three patients for unrelated intra-abdominal conditions. In each case, the graft was intact and revascularized, confirming experimental animal data performed in our laboratory. Recurrent hernia has not been observed through the laparotomy site. Our 9-year experience has demonstrated that in the face of large, contaminated abdominal wounds where prosthetic material is contraindicated and local tissue rearrangement would be inadequate, fascia lata autografts are a reliable adjuvant to abdominal wall reconstruction.

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