Prior radiation therapy, pelvic dead space, and a dependent location contribute to perineal dehiscence rates as high as 66 percent after primary closure of pelvic wounds. Various regional flaps have been described to reconstruct pelvic defects, but an algorithmic pairing of individual flaps to specific anatomical regions has not been described.
A retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database was performed to identify consecutive pelvic reconstructions from 2010 to 2013 with at least 6 months’ follow-up. Pelvic defects and resulting flaps were described by anatomical subunits involved: anterolateral thigh flap for mons, gracilis flap for labia majora and introitus, vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap for vagina and/or perineal raphe, and gluteus musculocutaneous flap for isolated perianal defects.
Twenty-seven women and three men underwent consecutive pelvic reconstruction with a mean age of 60 years (range, 26 to 83 years) and a mean body mass index of 28 kg/m2
(range, 17 to 40 kg/m2
). Twenty-one patients (70 percent) had prior radiation therapy. In total, 45 flaps were performed according to the subunit principle. Three patients had a minor dehiscence (<5 cm), one patient had a major dehiscence, and one required reoperation for abscess. There were two partial flap losses necessitating débridement and readvancement of the flap. Twenty-five percent of female patients were sexually active after vaginal reconstruction.
The pelvic subunit principle provides an effective algorithm for choosing the ideal pedicled flap for each region involved in acquired pelvic defects. This algorithm is based on individual attributes that make each flap most appropriate for each subunit. Complications were minimal and patient satisfaction with appearance and function was excellent.