Lower Extremity Free Flaps for Breast Reconstruction
Thigh-based flaps are typically a secondary option for breast reconstruction because of concerns regarding limited tissue volume and donor-site morbidity. In recent years, there have been a number of new techniques and insights that have resulted in greater flexibility and improved outcomes. This article reviews lessons learned from a large collective experience using the following 4 flaps: transverse upper gracilis also known as transverse myocutaneous gracilis, diagonal upper gracilis, profunda artery perforator, and lateral thigh perforator flaps. Flap selection considerations include the patient’s fat distribution and skin laxity, perforator anatomy, and scar location. Pearls to minimize donor-site morbidity include avoiding major lymphatic collectors in the femoral triangle and along the greater saphenous vein and respecting the limits of flap dimension to reduce wound healing complications and distal ischemia. Limited flap volume may be addressed with stacking another flap from the contralateral thigh or primary fat grafting as opposed to overaggressive flap harvest from a single thigh. A detailed review of the benefits and disadvantages of each flap and strategies to improve results is discussed. With careful planning and selection, thigh-based flaps can provide a reliable option patients desiring autologous breast reconstruction.