Performing a greater number of free flap procedures inevitably results in an increase in the number of cases that experience free flap failure. In cases that require a second free flap after the failure of the first, recipient vessel selection becomes difficult. Furthermore, recipient vessel selection can be complicated if the vessel is deep in the recipient site, or if there is an increased risk of vessel damage during the dissection. Thus, we present our experience where a subfascial vessel beneath the deep fascia was used as a recipient vessel for a second free flap in lower extremity reconstruction due to total or partial first flap failure.
Between January 2010 and April 2015, 5 patients underwent second free flap reconstruction using a subfascial vessel as the recipient vessel. The flaps were anastomosed in a perforator-to-perforator manner, using the supermicrosurgery technique. We measured the sizes of the flaps, which varied from 5 × 3 to 15 × 8 cm, and the recipient subfascial vessel diameters.
The mean time for the dissection of the recipient perforator was 45 minutes. All the flaps exhibited full survival, although a partial loss of the skin graft at the flap donor site was observed in 1 patient; this defect healed with conservative management.
We recommend using a subfascial vessel as the recipient vessel for both first and second free flaps, especially if access to the major vessel is risky or challenging.