Functional impairment after latissimus dorsi flap

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Background:Available published reports suggest that loss of latissimus dorsi muscle following latissimus myocutaneous flap does not lead to functional impairment. However, significant functional impairment has been observed in clinical practice, prompting this study to evaluate the functional deficit in patients who had undergone reconstruction using latissimus dorsi muscle.Methods:A retrospective review was undertaken between 1998 and 2003. Patients were identified from the audit of the plastic surgery unit at St Vincent’s Hospital and recruited by direct telephone contact. They were assessed using the Disability of Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire.Results:There were 25 participants. Eighteen completed their questionnaires. Six of 18 patients reported scores of 30 or more, which corresponded to a global moderate functional deficit. These patients were severely limited in their ability to carry out housework. Major postoperative complications were associated with high Disability of Arm, Shoulder and Hand scores (P = 0.028). Three of five patients involved with sports reported impaired performance in sports. The subgroup of four patients who underwent bilateral latissimus dorsi flaps also experienced significant morbidity with all four reporting moderate to severe impairment in their ability to return to gardening and/or sports.Conclusion:Patients undergoing this procedure should be fully informed of potential sequelae. Athletic patients and patients undergoing bilateral latissimus dorsi flaps should also be warned of possible reduced performance in sports. Alternatively, perforator cutaneous flaps, which preserve the latissimus muscle, should be chosen when feasible.

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