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The Lower Trapezius Musculocutaneous Flap for Head and Neck Reconstruction: Two Decades of Clinical Experience

Ou, Kuang-Ling MD; Dai, Yang-Hong; Wang, Hsian-Jenn MD; Chen, Tim-Mo MD; Dai, Nian-Tzyy MD; Chang, Shun-Cheng MD; Deng, Shou-Cheng MD; Tzeng, Yuan-Sheng MD; Wang, Chih-Hsing MD; Chen, Shyi-Gen MD

doi: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000000036
Clinical Papers

Background Microsurgical free flap has gained the popularity over pedicle flap nowadays in the reconstruction of head and neck. However, pedicled flaps remain a promising alternative and have a remarkable position in selected patients. This review study aimed to determine the reliability and versatility of the lower trapezius musculocutaneous flap for reconstructing complex defects in the head and neck.

Methods Between 1993 and 2012, 22 male and 10 female patients underwent a total of 32 lower trapezius flap reconstructions for complex defects that included neoplasm extirpation (n = 21), radionecrosis (n = 6), dehisced laminectomy (n = 2), pressure sore (n = 2), and necrotizing fasciitis (n = 1). The most common site of defect was the perioral region, followed by the neck, posterior skull, back, temporal region, shoulder, and the upper arm. Flap design was based on the defect size and location, as well as the ability to close the donor site primarily and to preserve muscle function. Outcome has been evaluated by the hospital course, postoperative morbidity, mortality, resultant cosmetics, and function at donor and recipient sites.

Results Stable wound coverage with total flap survival was achieved in 30 (93.75%) patients, 2 patients had partial flap necrosis which required flap reinsertion and skin graft coverage. All donor sites were closed primarily. Seroma developed in 2 (6.25%) patients, which were solved by needle aspiration. All muscle function was preserved. Eight patients died of their primary disease.

Conclusions For selected patients who have advanced stage cancer, surgical sequelae after free flap surgery, unable to tolerate microsurgery, or special defect location, pedicled lower trapezius musculocutaneous flap provides efficient and effective reconstruction for complex defects especially in the head and neck.

From the Division of Plastic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China.

Received September 29, 2013, and accepted for publication, after revision, October 6, 2013.

Conflicts of interest and sources of funding: none declared.

Reprints: Shyi-Gen Chen, MD, Division of Plastic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center No. 325, Sec. 2, Cheng-Kung Rd, Nei-Hu 114, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China. E-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins