The Gracilis Free Flap Is a Viable Option for Large Extremity Wounds

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Abstract

Background

Traditionally, the gracilis free flap is used for coverage of small- to medium-sized wounds (<50 cm2) or as a functional muscle transfer. The purpose of this study is to examine the use of the gracilis free flap in the reconstruction of large extremity wounds (>100 cm2).

Methods

We retrospectively reviewed records of 34 patients who underwent extremity soft-tissue reconstruction using gracilis free flaps for wounds larger than 100 cm2 from 1998 to 2016. The primary outcome was overall flap success rate. Secondary outcomes were rates of major and minor complications. Mean defect size was 145 cm2 (range, 104–240 cm2). Seven flaps covered defects greater than 175 cm2. Indications were tumor extirpation (n = 18) and traumatic/posttraumatic wounds (n = 16). The most common time period for flap coverage was immediately (3 days or less) after the defect was created (n = 14). Most flaps were solely muscle (n = 28) and were used for lower extremity or foot coverage (n = 29).

Results

The overall success rate was 94%. Major and minor complications occurred in 5 and 13 cases, respectively. The most common major complication was unplanned reoperation (n = 5), and the most common minor complications were partial skin graft loss (n = 3), partial flap necrosis (n = 3), and planned recipient-site reoperation (n = 5).

Conclusions

Reconstruction of large extremity wounds using the gracilis free flap showed a 94% success rate with few major complications.

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