Functional Evaluation of Latissimus Dorsi Donor Site

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A study was undertaken to determine the cosmetic and functional problems associated with the latissimus dorsi muscle donor site. Twenty-four patients undergoing both free and pedicle muscle and myocutaneous flap procedures for a wide variety of reconstructive problems were studied. All patients had a contour defect at the donor site, a scar which varied with the patient's age and whether overlying skin had been taken with the muscle flap. Mild to moderate shoulder weakness and some loss of motion were noted in most patients which improved over the course of several months. An upper extremity disability in strength and shoulder motion should be anticipated following latissimus dorsi transfer, which in most cases is minimized by the recruitment of synergistic muscle units. Vigorous range-of-motion exercises following surgery should be encouraged to minimize adhesions and joint capsule stiffness. Social changes in occupation and daily living activities were noted which were not a problem for most patients. Twenty-three of 24 patients were pleased with the overall outcome of their surgery and would recommend the procedure to others. A prospective study before and after latissimus dorsi transfer followed by a second evaluation 2 to 3 years postoperatively would help to clarify the role synergistic muscle units play in “taking over” latissimus dorsi function.

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