The aim of this study was to investigate whether the pedicle of the rectus abdominis flap can be lengthened by resecting the inferior costal cartilage segments or associated muscle when repairing upper body defects. A formula was generated that calculates the expected increase in pedicle length.METHODS
Thirty patients underwent computed tomography. The width and thickness of the third to seventh inferior costal cartilage segments as well as the width of the respective intercostal spaces were recorded. Four patients underwent reconstruction of an upper body defect with the relevant flap.RESULTS
The expected mean increases in pedicle length were 4.07cm (standard deviation [SD]: 0.31cm) and 4.63cm (SD: 0.54cm) following resection of the left and right sides respectively of the seventh inferior costal cartilage segment, 7.99cm (SD: 0.49cm) and 10.82cm (SD: 0.23cm) following resection of the left and right sides respectively of the sixth and seventh inferior costal cartilage segments while resection of the fourth to seventh inferior costal cartilage segments would equate to increases of 17.48cm (SD: 0.62cm) and 22.05cm (SD: 0.21cm) for the left and right sides respectively. In four patients who required reconstruction, three flaps survived without problems but one flap developed partial necrosis.CONCLUSIONS
Resecting inferior costal cartilage segments or associated muscle can lengthen the pedicle of the rectus abdominis flap for reconstruction of defects on the upper chest and neck.