The Pedicled Gastrocnemius Muscle Flap: A Review of 218 Cases

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Background:Data regarding donor-site morbidity, postoperative clinical course, and functional and aesthetic outcome after gastrocnemius muscle flaps are rare.Methods:Data regarding 218 consecutive patients treated with gastrocnemius muscle flaps were acquired from patients’ charts and from contact with patients, with special reference to treatment and clinical course. Eighty-two were interviewed with a standardized questionnaire, 40 were examined physically, and 34 underwent dynamometric muscle function tests.Results:The authors observed wound-healing difficulties in 7 percent, wound infections in 4 percent, and one flap loss; 4.5 percent of the lateral gastrocnemius patients suffered from postoperative palsy of the peroneal nerve. Eighty-seven percent were not significantly limited walking on even ground, but only 42 percent could run, and 40 percent complained about pain when walking more than 200 m. The average range-of-motion deficit in the ankle joint for flexion and extension was 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively. The maximal plantar flexion force in the ankle joint of the operated leg was 76.2 percent. Strength endurance was reduced approximately 24.4 percent in the operated leg compared with the nonaffected side.Conclusions:Gastrocnemius muscle transfer represents a safe and simple procedure in the treatment of lower leg defects and in limb preservation. The strength loss and functional impairment (and sensation disorders) are considerable but may not be exclusively attributable to the muscle transfer but rather the result of the preceding trauma, infection, or tumor resection. The donor-site morbidity is well tolerated by the majority of the patients.

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