The Folded Ulnar Forearm Flap for Nasal Reconstruction

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Abstract

Background:

Many strategies exist to reconstruct composite nasal defects, but free flaps are necessary for extensive defects. The workhorse radial forearm flap is hair-bearing and donor-site cosmesis is unfavorable. The ulnar forearm flap is overlooked despite important aesthetic benefits. The authors describe their experience with the ulnar forearm flap, with a novel folding technique in staged nasal reconstruction.

Methods:

Between December of 2010 and April of 2015, 10 nasal reconstructions in five men and five women were performed. Average patient age was 47.6 years (range, 31 to 76 years). The ulnar forearm flap was designed as a narrow contiguous flap along the ulnar vascular axis. Inset began with the nasal floor; the flap was then tubularized twice to create nasal passages before it was folded on itself for coverage. Caudal edges were sewn together to create alae and a columella. Follow-up time, complications, number of operations, and reconstructive duration were documented.

Results:

Average follow-up was 25.2 months (range, 18 to 44 months). Patients had satisfactory aesthetic and functional outcomes after 6.4 operations (range, five to eight) over 11.1 months (range, 8 to 18 months). Partial necrosis of the alar lining in one case was salvaged with the covering flap. Two cases of chondritis were managed with conservative débridement and antibiotics. One case of severe chondritis necessitated removal and de novo reconstruction.

Conclusions:

The ulnar forearm flap is safe and reliable in nasal reconstruction, with superior donor-site cosmesis. The tubular folding method creates a vascular envelope amenable to same-stage framework construction. With thoughtful planning and sufficient refinement, excellent aesthetic and functional results are achievable.

CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:

Therapeutic, V.

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