Functional Abdominal Wall Reconstruction Using an Innervated Abdominal Wall Vascularized Composite Tissue Allograft: A Cadaveric Study and Review of the Literature

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Abstract

Background

Large, composite abdominal wall defects represent complex problems requiring a multidisciplinary approach for reconstruction. Abdominal wall vascularized composite allotransplantation (AW-VCA) has been successfully performed in 21 patients, already receiving solid organ transplants, to provide immediate abdominal closure. The current study aims to establish a novel anatomic model for AW-VCA that retains motor and sensory function in an effort to preserve form and function while preventing complications.

Methods

Three fresh cadaver torsos were obtained. Dissection was started in the midaxillary line bilaterally through the skin and subcutaneous fascia until the external oblique was encountered. The thoracolumbar nerves were identified and measurements were obtained. A peritoneal dissection from the costal margin to pubic symphysis was performed and the vascular pedicle was identified for subsequent microsurgical anastomosis.

Results

The mean size of the abdominal wall graft harvested was 615 ± 120 cm2. The mean time of abdominal wall procurement was ˜150 ± 12 minutes. The mean number of thoracolumbar nerves identified was 5 ± 1.4 on each side. The mean length of the skeletonized thoracolumbar nerves was 7.8 ± 1.7 cm. The cross-sectional diameter of all nerves as they entered the rectus abdominis was greater than 2 mm.

Conclusions

Motor function and sensory recovery is expected in other forms of vascularized composite allotransplantation, such as the hand or face; however, this has never been tested in AW-VCA. This study demonstrates feasibility for the transplantation of large, composite abdominal wall constructs that potentially retains movement, strength, and sensation through neurotization of both sensory and motor nerves.

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