The authors present their experience with the design of expanded skin flaps gained over the past two decades in a large series of 995 expanded flap reconstructions performed in 626 operations in 430 patients. The indications for tissue expansion were giant congenital pigmented nevi (72.7 percent), scar contractures (11.2 percent), and a remainder for a variety of congenital and acquired deformities. Surgical strategies were reviewed retrospectively to determine the location in the body where the tissue expansion was performed, the number of procedures required to accomplish the reconstructive goal, and the design of the expanded flap that was used to reconstruct the involved area. Specific points that were noticed included contour deformities (such as webbing, dog-ears, or decreased limb circumference) following flap reconstruction, anatomic distortions (such as distortion of the eyebrow or the distance from the brow to hairline) following reconstruction, final position of the scars in relation to anatomic landmarks, borders of aesthetic units, and relaxed skin tension lines, and the potential for later scar contracture. Careful examination of reconstruction by region of involvement demonstrated significant advantages in the use of expanded transposition flaps over pure advancement. These advantages and the modifications in the design of expanded flaps for each body region are discussed in a series of representative cases. They emphasize the ability of transposition flaps to dissipate tension away from the flap apex and distribute it more proximally, thus redirecting the tension lines so there is less likelihood of anatomic distortion in the reconstructed area. Also, flaps designed in this manner allow improved contour by avoiding webbing, tenting across concavities, and bunching of skin laterally. The authors conclude that restricting the expanded flap design to advancement alone to minimize potential scarring severely limits the reconstructive capabilities of the added tissue and distracts from the surgeon’s ability to accomplish the initial reconstructive goal. The cost of additional incisions is worthwhile to achieve better final contour of the reconstructed part, lesser risk of anatomic distortion, better position of the scars, and lowered risk of scar contracture.
From the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, and the Children’s Memorial Medical Center.
Received for publication August 7, 2002; revised August 11, 2003.
Bruce S. Bauer, M.D,. Division of Plastic Surgery, The Children’s Memorial Hospital, Box 93, 2300 Children’s Plaza, Chicago, Ill. 60614, firstname.lastname@example.org