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The Tunneled Supraclavicular Island Flap: An Optimized Technique for Head and Neck Reconstruction

Pallua, Norbert M.D., Ph.D.; Noah, Ernst Magnus M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: March 2000 - Volume 105 - Issue 3 - p 842-851

Reconstructive procedures in the head and neck region use a wide range of flaps for defect closure. The methods range from local, mostly myocutaneous flaps and skin grafts to free microsurgical flaps. To ensure a satisfactory functional and aesthetic result, good texture and color of the flap are always essential. Moreover, the donor-site defect needs to be reduced, with no resulting functional or aesthetic impairment. We have found that the shoulder is a region providing an optimum skin texture match to the neck and face.

In cadaver dissection, a vascular pedicle extending from the transversal cervical artery with two accompanying veins was found to vascularize a defined region around the shoulder cap. In line with these findings, the previously described fasciocutaneous island flap, nourished by the supraclavicular artery, was developed further and used purely as a subcutaneously tunneled island flap. The tunneling maneuver significantly improves the donor site by reducing scarring. The flap is characterized by a long subcutaneous pedicle of up to 20 cm. The pivot point is in the supraclavicular region and allows the flap to be used in the upper chest, neck, chin, and cheek.

In this article, we introduce the anatomic features and present clinical cases underlining the surgical possibilities of the flap in reconstructive procedures with expanded indications.

Aachen, Germany

From the Department of Plastic Surgery, Hand and Reconstructive Surgery, Burns Center, at the RWTH Technical University of Aachen.

Received for publication June 3, 1999.

Norbert Pallua, M.D., Ph.D. Department of Plastic Surgery Hand and Reconstructive Surgery, Burns Center RWTH Technical University of Aachen Pauwelsstr. 30 52074 Aachen, Germany

©2000American Society of Plastic Surgeons