Radiographie studies of the deep superior epigastric artery (DSEA) and its connections within the soft tissues of the abdominal wall were performed in 64 fresh cadavers. The patterns of anastomosis between the deep superior epigastric artery and the deep inferior epigastric artery (DIEA) were noted. Type I (29 percent) revealed a single deep superior epigastric artery and deep inferior epigastric artery, type II (57 percent) revealed a double-branched system of each vessel, and type III (14 percent) revealed a system of three or more major branches. In each case, the two systems were united by choke vessels in the segment of muscle above the umbilicus.
The supply to the various transverse and vertical skin flaps from the deep superior epigastric artery was defined as a series of captured anatomic territories bounded by choke vessels. The upper transverse and vertical flaps had the best supply, and the TRAM flap had the most tenuous supply. Midline crossover occurs predominantly in the subdermal plexus and on the surface of the rectus sheath.
Modifications of the design of the TRAM flap, the case for a delay procedure, the wisdom of including a strip of anterior rectus sheath, and the risks of splitting the muscle with respect to its nerve supply and vascular patterns are discussed on an anatomic basis.