Esophageal reconstruction after tumor extirpation or ingestion injury is a difficult problem for the reconstructive plastic surgeon. Free tubed fasciocutaneous flaps and intestinal flaps have become the mainstay for reconstruction. The free jejunal flap has the advantage of replacing like-with-like tissue and having lower fistula rates. Additionally, the “mesenteric wrap” modification and prophylactic pectoralis major muscle have been described to further decrease anastomotic leaks and fistulae. The purpose of this study was to describe the use of the prophylactic pedicled sternocleidomastoid (SCM) flap for prevention of anastomotic leaks and fistulae.
A retrospective review of patients who underwent reconstruction of circumferential pharyngoesophageal defects with a free jejunal flap by a single surgeon from 2008 to 2012 was performed. Those who received a prophylactic pedicled SCM flap to reinforce one of their jejunal anastomoses were selected for this study, and their outcomes were analyzed. Patients' demographics, comorbidities, complications, and clinical outcomes were collected and analyzed.
Three patients underwent reinforcement of one jejunal anastomosis with a pedicled SCM flap. The mean age was 60 years, and average follow-up was 27 months. Two patients received postoperative radiation, and one patient received both preoperative and postoperative radiation. The recipient vessels included the facial artery, internal jugular vein, and facial vein. The flap survival rate was 100%. There was 1 stricture and 1 fistula that occurred at the anastomoses without the SCM muscle reinforcement. There were no complications at the jejunal anastomotic sites that were reinforced with the SCM muscle. Of the 6 anastomotic sites in 3 patients, there was a 0% fistula rate and 0% stricture rate at the sites reinforced with the SCM muscle versus a 33% fistula rate and a 33% stricture rate at the sites without the SCM muscle flap. One patient was diagnosed with local tumor recurrence and eventually succumbed to the progression of their disease. All patients were able to tolerate an oral diet without supplemental feeds. All patients were able to achieve intelligible speech via an electrolarynx or esophageal speech.
Reconstruction of pharyngoesophageal defects can be technically challenging and requires extensive planning and careful execution. The free jejunal flap restores alimentary continuity with good functional outcomes. Fistula rates may be decreased with the use of a prophylactic SCM flap to reinforce the jejunal anastomosis.