Predicting and Managing Donor-Site Wound Complications in Abdominally Based Free Flap Breast Reconstruction: Improved Outcomes with Early Reoperative Closure

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The purpose of this study was to (1) determine risk factors predictive of delayed abdominal healing; (2) determine characteristics that perpetuate progression to chronic abdominal wounds and describe the resultant morbidity; and (3) identify outcomes and cost following two treatment strategies—conservative wound care and early reoperative primary closure.


Patients were identified from a database of abdominally based free flaps performed from January of 2005 through July of 2012.


One thousand two hundred eighteen abdominal donor sites were reviewed, and 167 cases (13.7 percent) of delayed abdominal wound healing were identified. Obesity (p < 0.0001), smoking (p = 0.043), bilateral reconstruction (p = 0.006), preoperative chemotherapy (p = 0.006), and abdominal mesh (p = 0.028) were independently associated with delayed healing. Initiation of chemotherapy p < 0.0001), wet-to-dry wound care (p = 0.001), negative-pressure wound therapy (p = 0.002), and flap type (p = 0.047) were predictive of chronic wounds, and such wounds generated higher rates of hospital readmission (p = 0.009), mesh complications (p < 0.001), and hernia/bulge (p = 0.006). Patients who underwent delayed primary wound closure were more likely to have a well-healed abdomen within 1 month (90.9 percent versus 24.2 percent; p < 0.0001), resulting in lower cost, fewer hospital readmissions, lower rates of scar revision, and lower rates of mesh complications/hernia/bulge.


Chronic abdominal wounds were associated with abdominal wall sequelae, including hernia. Early reoperative primary wound closure has been successfully and selectively implemented, resulting in improved patient outcomes.


Risk, III.

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