When the lumbosacral soft-tissue defect cannot be closed with a local flap, the option of a free flap should be considered. However, very few cases of free flaps have been reported, the reason being mainly difficulties in finding a suitable recipient vessel. Several vessels, such as inferior gluteal vessel, extension of thoracodorsal vessel with vein graft were reported as recipient vessels, but each one had its own drawbacks. The superior gluteal vessel has been used as a donor vessel in breast reconstruction after mastectomy but is thought to be undesirable as a recipient for microvascular anastomosis, mainly because of technical difficulty.
From May of 1993 to March of 1997, five patients (one man and four women) received microvascular transfer of latissimus dorsi myocutaneous flaps using the superior gluteal vessel as a recipient. Their ages ranged from 11 to 64 years (mean 44 years of age). The causes of lumbosacral defects were tumor (1), trauma (1), radiation (2), and pressure sore (1). Before free flap transfer, the patients received an average of 2.8 operations for sacral lesions. Mean follow-up period was 12.4 months (2 to 40 months). A lateral approach was used to the superior gluteal vessel after elevation and retraction of gluteus maximus muscle. A thoracodorsal artery and vein were anastomosed to superior gluteal artery and vein in three cases, whereas in two cases, one artery and two veins could be anastomosed.
All the flaps survived with complete recovery from sacral lesions. During the follow-up period, one case of partial skin graft necrosis and one case of a small superficial pressure sore developed, but there was neither dehiscence nor recurrence.
The superior gluteal vessel is large in caliber, constant, with numerous branches, lying in proximity to the lesion, and relatively unaffected despite previous radiation. The technical difficulties with the deep location and short pedicle length can be overcome with some modifications in approach to the vascular pedicle. The superior gluteal artery and vein can be used as a recipient for the free tissue transfer when the lumbosacral defects cannot be covered with a conventional method. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 101: 1842, 1998.)