After studying this article, the participant should be able to: 1. Describe the anatomic muscle complex that is advanced toward the midline in the separation of components method of abdominal wall repair. 2. Understand the indications for components of separation reconstruction of the abdominal wall and the maximum transverse defect width that can be reconstructed at various levels. 3. Describe the course of the intercostal nerves lateral to the linea semilunaris line as they run posterior to anterior. 4. Understand the plane of dissection necessary to develop this muscle complex and be aware of the technical maneuver to increase the mobility of this complex at the costal margin, waist, and suprapubic area.Learning Objectives:
Reconstruction of massive abdominal wall defects has long been a vexing clinical problem. A landmark development for the autogenous tissue reconstruction of these difficult wounds was the introduction of “components of anatomic separation” technique by Ramirez et al. This method uses bilateral, innervated, bipedicle, rectus abdominis-transversus abdominis-internal oblique muscle flap complexes transposed medially to reconstruct the central abdominal wall. Enamored with this concept, this institution sought to define the limitations and complications and to quantify functional outcome with the use of this technique. During a 4-year period (July of 1991 to 1995), 22 patients underwent reconstruction of massive midline abdominal wounds. The defects varied in size from 6 to 14 cm in width and from 10 to 24 cm in height. Causes included removal of infected synthetic mesh material (n = 7), recurrent hernia (n = 4), removal of split-thickness skin graft and dense abdominal wall cicatrix (n = 4), parastomal hernia (n = 2), primary incisional hernia (n = 2), trauma/enteric sepsis (n = 2), and tumor resection (abdominal wall desmoid tumor involving the right rectus abdominis muscle) (n = 1). Twenty patients were treated with mobilization of both rectus abdominis muscles, and in two patients one muscle complex was used. The plane of “separation” was the interface between the external and internal oblique muscles. A quantitative dynamic assessment of the abdominal wall was performed in two patients by using a Cybex TEF machine, with analysis of truncal flexion strength being undertaken preoperatively and at 6 months after surgery. Patients achieved wound healing in all cases with one operation. Minor complications included superficial infection in two patients and a wound seroma in one. One patient developed a recurrent incisional hernia 8 months postoperatively. There was one postoperative death caused by multisystem organ failure. One patient required the addition of synthetic mesh to achieve abdominal closure. This case involved a thin patient whose defect exceeded 16 cm in width. There has been no clinically apparent muscle weakness in the abdomen over that present preoperatively. Analysis of preoperative and postoperative truncal force generation revealed a 40 percent increase in strength in the two patients tested on a Cybex machine. Reoperation was possible through the reconstructed abdominal wall in two patients without untoward sequela. This operation is an effective method for autogenous reconstruction of massive midline abdominal wall defects. It can be used either as a primary mode of defect closure or to treat the complications of trauma, surgery, or various diseases.