Free flaps have become a popular option for the reconstruction of intraoral defects. The radial forearm flap used to be the workhorse flap for small and thin defects, but was associated with numerous donor-site morbidities. The proximal lateral leg flap can provide a thin and pliable tissue similar to the radial forearm flap but without the related donor-site morbidities. We compared the differences between these 2 flaps. Thirty-four patients with intraoral defects from September 2005 to October 2011 were reconstructed, using the radial forearm flap in 23 cases, and the proximal lateral leg flap in 11 cases. The radial forearm flap group had a success rate of 95.6%. The flap survival rate was 100% in the proximal lateral leg flap group. However, the difference was statistically insignificant. Skin graft was required in 22 of the 23 cases for the donor site of the radial forearm flap. Partial loss of the skin graft occurred in 5/22 (23%) of the patients, with exposure of tendons in 3/22 (14%). Delay in healing of the donor sites occurred in 6/23 (26%) of the patients. The donor sites of the proximal lateral leg flap were all closed primarily. One case developed wound dehiscence and this healed by conservative treatment. Long-term follow-up showed functional impairment of the donor forearm (reduced extension or grip strength) in 17% of the patients. Thirty percent of the patients developed sensory disturbance and 48% complained of poor outcome of the donor forearms. In the proximal lateral leg flap group, no motor or sensory functional deficits were seen. No patients complained of poor outcome of the donor legs. Primary closure of the donor site of the proximal lateral leg flap could be performed if the flap width was less than 6 cm. This flap is useful for patients with small and thin intraoral defects and is associated with minimal donor-site morbidity when compared to the radial forearm flap.
From the *Division of Plastic Surgery, Tzu Chi Hualien General Hospital; †School of Medicine, Tzu Chi University; ‡Department of Otolaryngology, Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, Hualien; §Division of Plastic Surgery, Tzu Chi Dalin General Hospital, Dalin; and ∥Division of Plastic Surgery, Tzu Chi Taichung General Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan.
Received October 3, 2013, and accepted for publication, after revision, October 6, 2013.
Conflicts of interest and sources of funding: none declared.
Reprints: Honda Hsu, MBChB, Division of Plastic Surgery, Tzu Chi Dalin General Hospital, Tzu Chi University, 2 Min-Sheng Rd, Dalin, Taiwan. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.