The Versatility of the Anterolateral Thigh Flap
In the last two decades, the anterolateral thigh flap has emerged as one of the most popular reconstructive options for multiple body sites. Based on a perforator flap harvest concept, the flap encompasses the advantages of versatility, pliability, and potential for composite tissue replacement. Although numerous anatomical variations exist, these are well-described, and flap safety remains uncompromised if certain anatomical boundaries are respected. Careful preoperative planning and identification of perforators remain the cornerstone of successful flap harvest. Once perforators are identified, variations in skin paddle design allow for multiple skin paddle configurations, central or eccentric orientations, and custom-made flaps tailored to fit almost any defect. A suprafascial dissection allows for “ultra-thin” flaps ideal for folding, tubing, or packing purposes. The versatility of the lateral circumflex femoral artery branches can be exploited to include muscle, iliac bone, tendon, fascia, or nerve in extended designs. The anterolateral thigh flap is currently the frontline choice for head and neck reconstruction, including intraoral, mandibular-maxillary, tongue, and facial defects, and is gaining popularity in abdominal and pelvis reconstruction. It can also be used as a pedicled flap in phallus or perineum reconstruction. More recently, the flap has proved to be extremely useful in skin resurfacing and even functional reconstruction in traumatic wounds. This review summarizes the anatomy, planning, flap harvest, donor morbidity, and clinical applications of the anterolateral thigh flap. An algorithm is proposed that facilitates a clear, problem-based approach for the use of this versatile reconstructive option.