The Use of the Multi-Island Vertical Rectus Abdominis Myocutaneous Flap in Head and Neck Reconstruction

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BackgroundHead and neck cancer extirpation frequently creates complex 3-dimensional defects involving both intraoral and external tissues. Reconstruction can be accomplished either with 2 free flaps, a simultaneous free and pedicle flap, or a single double-island folded free flap. Herein, the outcomes and rationale for reconstruction of multilaminar head and neck defects using the multi-island vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous (MI-VRAM) flap are reported.MethodsA retrospective review was performed of a prospectively collected database of all head and neck reconstructions completed by a single surgeon between 1992 and 2011. Forty-six patients were identified who underwent reconstruction of composite defects using MI-VRAM flaps. Oncologic defects were classified into 3 categories based on anatomic location, namely, the midface, lower face, and neck. Indications and outcomes were reviewed.ResultsPatients’ ages ranged from 7 to 84 years with two thirds being male; 45% received preoperative radiation. Average MI-VRAM skin paddle size was 9 × 25.5 cm. Of the 46 reconstructions, 27 (59%) were performed in the midface, 14 (30%) in the lower face, and 5 (11%) in the neck region. There were no complete flap loses; however, 1 patient lost the external skin island, requiring pectoralis flap coverage. Of these cases, 15% had surgically related complications. Ten patients required secondary contouring procedures to revise bulky flaps.ConclusionsThe MI-VRAM flap is a safe and reliable technique for reconstruction of complex defects throughout the head and neck region. Compared to 2 simultaneous free flaps or a free flap combined with a regional flap, it saves time and eliminates a second donor site.Level of EvidenceLevel IV. Clinical question addressed in this paper is whether a multi-island VRAM flap is a safe technique in head and neck reconstruction.

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