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The Utility and Versatility of Perforator-Based Propeller Flaps in Burn Care

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Abstract

The majority of surgical burn care involves the use of skin grafts. However, there are cases when flaps are required or provide superior outcomes both in the acute setting and for postburn reconstruction. Rarely discussed in the context of burn care, the perforator-based propeller flap is an important option to consider. We describe our experience with perforator-based propeller flaps in the acute and reconstructive phases of burn care. We reviewed demographics, indications, operative details, and outcomes for patients whose burn care included the use of a perforator-based propeller flap at our institution from May 2007 to April 2015. Details of the surgical technique and individual cases are also discussed. Twenty-one perforator-based propeller flaps were used in the care of 17 burn patients. Six flaps (29%) were used in the acute phase for coverage of exposed joints, tendons, cartilage, and bone; coverage of open wounds; and preservation of range of motion (ROM) by minimizing scar contracture. Fifteen flaps (71%) were used for reconstruction of postburn deformities including coverage of chronic wounds, for coverage after scar contracture release, and to improve ROM. The majority of flaps (94% at follow-up) exhibited stable soft tissue coverage and good or improved ROM of adjacent joints. Three cases of partial flap loss and one case of total flap loss occurred. Perforator-based propeller flaps provide reliable vascularized soft tissue for coverage of vital structures and wounds, contracture release, and preservation of ROM across joints. Despite a relatively significant risk of minor complications particularly in the coverage of chronic wounds, our study supports their utility in both the acute and reconstructive phases of burn care.

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