Dorsalis Pedis Flap Donor Site: Acceptable or Not?

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The dorsalis pedis flap has been used successfully for 20 years, both as a pedicled transfer for local foot reconstruction and as a free microvascular transfer. Proponents cite the reliable vascularity, versatility, ease of harvest, and thinness. Although significant donor-site morbidity has been recognized previously, published reports have inadequately documented the long-term effects of dorsalis pedis flap harvest. The purpose of the present study was to obtain long-term follow-up data regarding the donor site on a total of 10 male patients who underwent dorsalis pedis flap harvest during the period from 1982 to 1984. Standardized questionnaires and chart reviews were completed, and physical examinations and photographs of each patient were carried out when possible. Eight patients were reviewed, and seven of them were examined and photographed (mean follow-up 13 years). All patients had initially experienced delayed donor-site healing (mean 18 months; range 3 to 36 months). In addition, soft-tissue infections (five of eight cases), osteomyelitis (one of eight cases), wound breakdown (seven of eight cases), scarring and contracture (four of seven cases), pain or other uncomfortable sensations in the foot (six of seven cases), and requirement for reoperation (three of eight cases) were significant complications of the procedure. Most patients were able to attain their preoperative level of physical activity (five of eight cases). Although generally favorable reconstructive results were obtained in this series, the long-term follow-up of donor-site healing indicates that this flap should be used with caution. In particular, delayed donor-site healing, need for wound revision, and long-term and possibly permanent donorsite symptoms are common. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 102: 1549, 1998.)

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