Forty Years of Lower Extremity Take-Backs: Flap Type Influences Salvage Outcomes

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Background:Considering that muscle has higher metabolic demand than fasciocutaneous tissue and can be more difficult to monitor clinically, the authors compared take-back salvage rates between fasciocutaneous and muscle free flaps for lower extremity trauma reconstruction.Methods:The authors conducted a retrospective review of 806 free flaps (1979 to 2016); 481 soft-tissue flaps performed for below-knee trauma met inclusion criteria. Primary outcome measures were perioperative complications, specifically, take-backs and flap salvage rates. Univariate and multivariate regression analysis was performed where appropriate.Results:Take-backs occurred in 71 flaps (muscle, n = 44; fasciocutaneous, n = 27) at an average of 3.7 ± 5.4 days postoperatively. Indications were venous (48 percent), arterial (31 percent), unknown (10 percent), and hematoma (10 percent). Overall outcomes were complete salvage (37 percent), partial failure (25 percent), and total failure (38 percent). Take-backs occurring within 48 hours postoperatively correlated with higher salvage rates (p = 0.022). Fasciocutaneous flaps demonstrated increased take-back rates compared with muscle flaps (p = 0.005) that more frequently occurred within 48 hours postoperatively (relative risk, 13.2; p = 0.012). Fasciocutaneous flaps were successfully salvaged more often than muscle-based flaps (p < 0.001). Multivariable regression strongly demonstrated higher risk of take-back failure for muscle flaps (relative risk, 9.42; p = 0.001), despite higher take-back rates among fasciocutaneous flaps (relative risk, 2.28; p = 0.004).Conclusions:Compared with muscle-based flaps, fasciocutaneous flaps demonstrated earlier and more frequent take-backs for suspected vascular compromise, with higher successful take-back salvage rates. Furthermore, muscle flaps with skin paddles also demonstrated better salvage outcomes than those without. These findings may reflect a combination of lower metabolic demand and easier visual recognition of vascular compromise in fasciocutaneous tissue.CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:Therapeutic, III.

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