Background: Reconstruction of irradiated pelvic defects following oncologic resection requires dead-space obliteration to reduce wound healing complications. Although the vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous (VRAM) flap is often the best option for pelvic reconstruction following abdominoperineal resection or pelvic exenteration, donor- and recipient-site complications are common. The authors hypothesized that certain adjuvant techniques would improve pelvic VRAM flap outcomes.
Methods: Six technical modifications to improve VRAM flap outcomes were evaluated: fascia-sparing VRAM flap, component separation donor-site closure, inlay mesh abdominal reinforcement, deepithelialized VRAM flap skin paddle, extended VRAM flap, and omental flap plus VRAM flap. Prospectively collected data from consecutive patients with immediate pelvic VRAM flap reconstruction from 2001 to 2009 were analyzed retrospectively. Donor- and recipient-site complications were compared between patients treated with each technical modification and all other study patients.
Results: One hundred eighty-five patients were included (mean follow-up, 25.1 months). Fascia-sparing VRAM flaps resulted in significantly fewer hernias (1.5 percent versus 11.5 percent, p < 0.01), with less dehiscence, abdominal bulge, and evisceration. Patients receiving donor-site mesh inlay had fewer postoperative hernias (2.6 percent versus 5.5 percent) but more abdominal laxity/bulge (7.7 percent versus 0 percent, p = 0.01). Minor recipient-site dehiscence was significantly lower with omental plus VRAM flaps (11.1 percent versus 32.5 percent, p < 0.05) and extended VRAM flaps (7.7 percent versus 30.8 percent, p < 0.05). Multivariate logistic regression identified omental plus VRAM flaps as protective against (p < 0.05), and increasing body mass index as predictive for (p = 0.009), perineal skin dehiscence.
Conclusions: Several technical modifications of VRAM flap reconstruction improve pelvic reconstruction outcomes and should be considered. Further prospective studies will be important to elucidate specific indications for each technique.