Purpose of review: This review summarizes the worldwide experience (105 patients) in primary and secondary reconstruction of palatomaxillary oncologic defects with the angular branch-based subscapular system of free flaps, comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the technique with those of other well known osseous donor sites such as the fibula and iliac crest.
Recent findings: The most recognized indications for angular branch-based osteomuscular free flaps are class II (especially in association with zygomaticomaxillary buttress and/or floor of the orbit removal) and class III defects according to the Okay classification. Defects involving clearance of the orbital content have also been reconstructed in this manner. One of the most important drawbacks of this technique (i.e., need for intraoperative patient repositioning) is no longer considered an issue, and evidence has been provided that harvesting of angular branch-based scapular flaps may be routinely performed in a supine position. Three-dimensional morphologic similarity of the tip of the scapula with the native hard palate and other maxillary structures makes flap fabrication easy and practical, with at least two (horizontal and vertical) most commonly used flap orientations applied to reconstruct different defects.
Summary: Angular branch-based osteomuscular scapular free flaps represent a major advance in palatomaxillary reconstruction: their versatility, long pedicle with large caliber donor vessels, morphologic similarity with maxillary bony structures, and limited donor-site morbidity compare favorably with those of other osteomuscular and osteomusculocutaneous free flaps described for such challenging reconstructive purposes.