Plastic surgical reconstruction of the perineum is often required after abdominoperineal excision of the rectum. Options for this reconstruction include a vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous (VRAM) flap, gluteal fasciocutaneous flap, and gracilis myocutaneous flap. Although the VRAM flap is well established at most centers, less experience exists with the gluteal and gracilis flaps. In the era of laparoscopic colorectal resection, plastic surgeons are being forced to use gluteal and gracilis flaps because the VRAM flap must be tunnelled intra-abdominally requiring laparotomy. We therefore aimed to systematically review the evidence comparing VRAM, gluteal, and gracilis flaps.Methods
A comprehensive, structured literature search was conducted using Medline, Google Scholar, and Science Direct. Studies included were randomized control trials and observational studies documenting complication rates associated with the VRAM, gluteal, or gracilis flap.Results
Eleven studies meeting all inclusion and exclusion criteria were identified. When meta-analyzed, the overall rate of any perineal wound or flap complication among VRAM patients (35.8%) was significantly lower than gluteal flap (43.7%) and gracilis flap patients (52.9%) (P = 0.041).Conclusions
The VRAM flap is well established for perineal reconstruction, and this study suggests that it may be superior to the gluteal and gracilis flaps in terms perineal wound and flap complication rates. This should be taken into account when weighing up the risks and benefits of a laparoscopic approach to abdominoperineal excision of the rectum. Large studies making direct comparisons between the flap options should be conducted.