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Free Radial Forearm Flap Lip Reconstruction: A Clinical Series and Case Reports of Technical Refinements

Daya, Mahendra FCS, MBChb; Nair, Veneshree MBChb

doi: 10.1097/SAP.0b013e31818b4515
Hand Surgery and Microsurgery

Lip reconstruction is best suited to the dictum of replacement of like tissue with like. The use of the remaining lip in the use of the lip reconstruction becomes more difficult as the size of the defect increases. The use of local tissue for subtotal lower lip loss problems like microstomia and facial and commissure distortion are real risks. The use of free tissue transfer becomes especially an attractive option when in addition to the lip there is associated loss of other aesthetic units and/or mandibular bone loss. The potential value of local perioral tissue is more likely to maintain dynamic and sensory function of the lip.

Five patients were included in the clinical series during a period of 3 1/2 years since January 2002. All 5 patients were men. The age ranged from 15 to 67 years. Four patients underwent reconstruction by composite radial forearm flaps including both the cutaneous nerve of the forearm and the palmaris longus tendon. A single patient in this group had a partial brachioradialis muscle flap raised as chimeric component to the composite radial forearm flap. In the fifth patient, 2 simultaneous free radial forearm flaps were used for both upper and lower lip and bilateral buccal mucosal reconstruction.

All patients achieved the goals of providing an adequate mouth opening with competence. The refinement of dynamic palmaris sling attachment to the perioral muscle provided for very good oral competence and support. In the single patient, adding bulk with the brachioradialis muscle to the neo lower lip most likely served to improve both aesthetics and lip function.

With the use of free flaps an adequate labial sulcus, near dynamic sphincter control and sensation can be restored. The major drawback, however, is aesthetics of the lip. Further refinements like vermillion tattooing, fat injections or defatting by liposuction, and secondary mucosal flap surgery to provide the neolip with a vermillion are beneficial.

From the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Nelson R. Mandela school of Medicine, University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.

Received September 18, 2007, and ccepted for publication, August 21, 2008.

Presented at the World Society of Microsurgical Reconstructive Surgery Congress, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Association of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of South Africa Conference, East London, South Africa, October 2005.

Reprints: Mahendra Daya, FCS, MBChb, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, Ward D2 east. Private Bag X03. Mayville 4058, South Africa. E-mail:

© 2009 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins