Background: The vascular territory of the superficial inferior epigastric artery (SIEA) remains to be clarified. The SIEA flap has traditionally been classified as a hemiabdominal flap, but recent evidence points to the fact that a sizable superficial artery is capable of supplying the entire abdominal ellipse.
Methods: Twenty-five patients who met the anatomical criteria for undergoing SIEA flap surgery were studied. The abdominal flap was raised on a superficial inferior epigastric pedicle; the dominant musculocutaneous perforators were preserved and clamped above the abdominal fascia on either side. The vascular territory of the superficial epigastric artery and the contribution of the deep epigastric system were visualized using laser-induced fluorescence of indocyanine green. The surgical technique was modified (SIEA, deep inferior epigastric perforator, or bipedicle) based on perfusion measurements and the indication for surgery.
Results: The SIEA vascular territory did not cross the midline in 16 patients (64 percent), and ranged from 0 percent (two patients) to the entire abdominal ellipse (five cases). Fourteen patients (56 percent) were operated on with a unipedicle SIEA flap, five patients (20 percent) were operated on with a bipedicle flap, and in six (24 percent), a conventional deep inferior epigastric perforator flap was used. As a SIEA flap was originally intended in all patients, intraoperative perfusion measurements changed the surgical plan in 11 patients (44 percent).
Conclusions: The SIEA angiosome is variable and ranges from 0 to 100 percent of the lower abdominal flap. Intraoperative perfusion measurements are indispensable for evaluating the sufficiency of this pedicle for tissue transfer, especially if the contralateral flap zones are needed for reconstruction.