Vermillion Reconstruction With Anal Verge Transitional Epithelium: Turning Things Upside Down

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Abstract

Postburn lip deformities pose a significant set of challenges to reconstructive burn surgeons because of the complex anatomy, diverse functions, and specialized nature of the lip tissues. There has been a paucity of literature on restoration of the vermillion to date. The authors report on two patients who suffered burn injuries resulting in significant lip deformities who underwent a novel method of vermillion reconstruction with a full thickness anal verge skin graft. Both patients tolerated the procedure well without complications. One patient had slight hyperpigmentation of the graft which was treated with a phenol peel to cause intentional lightening. Overall, both patients had a restored vermillion border and improved color match and contour of the lip. Histologic analysis of the anal verge demonstrates that it has a nonkeratinized, transitional epithelial architecture which is nearly identical to that of the vermillion tissue. Skin grafting remains one of the cornerstones of tissue replacement in acute burn care and burn reconstruction. The vermillion represents an area of specialized tissue that is not well reconstructed with simple skin grafts. Other methods for reconstruction involve lip switch operations or local flaps, like a ventral tongue flap. These procedures are not without limitation and can often cause microstomia among other issues. With no donor site morbidity, a full thickness anal verge skin graft represents the closest approximation of actual vermillion tissue found anywhere else in the body and should be considered a viable option in the reconstruction of these challenging patients.

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