Venous Supercharging Reduces Complications and Improves Outcomes of Distally Based Sural Flaps

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Abstract

Background

The use of distally based neurocutaneous sural flaps (DBNCSF) is one of the most common methods of reconstructing the distal lower leg. However, they have developed a bad reputation because of their propensity for venous engorgement. Venous congestion that can lead to distal necrosis can be prevented by venous supercharging. Using a prospective comparative study, we thus explored the effect of venous supercharging on the reliability of these useful workhorse flaps.

Methods

We prospectively included 38 patients who received a conventional DBNCSF and 38 patients who received a supercharged version of this flap (sDBNCSF) between January 2012 and July 2016.

Results

No significant difference was identified between the groups in terms of age, sex, comorbidity, or defect origin. The main reconstruction etiology was traumatic (open fracture, scar disunion, and chronic osteitis). The flap size was noticeably larger in the sDBNCSF group, albeit without significance. The length-width ratio was significantly greater in the sDBNCSF group (6.08 vs. 5.53, p = 0.022). Venous congestion was significantly more common in the non-supercharged group (28.6 vs. 2.6%, p = 0.01), as was coverage failure (23.7 vs. 2.6%, p = 0.035).

Conclusion

There are significant benefits to using venous supercharging of DBNCSF, when technically feasible. In our experience, venous supercharging increases reliability, allows the raise of larger skin paddles with much narrower pedicles limiting the morbidity of the procedure, and improves the functional and esthetic results.

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