Background: Coverage of soft-tissue defects of the ankle and foot is often challenging. The distally based sural fascio-cutaneous flap is useful for reconstructing the lower leg, ankle, heel, and foot but has rarely been evaluated in paediatric patients. The objectives of this study were to assess the reliability of this flap in paediatric patients, to describe the complications associated with its use, and to define its indications in paediatric patients with soft-tissue defects of the ankle and foot. Hypothesis: We hypothesised that the sural flap was reliable for covering soft-tissue defects at the ankle and foot in paediatric patients. Material and methods: A distally based sural fascio-cutaneous flap was used to cover soft-tissue defects of the ankle and foot in 20 paediatric patients between 1997 and 2013. The evaluation at last follow-up included a physical examination and determination of the modified functional Kitaoka score. Mean follow-up was 50.6 months (range, 10-192 months) and mean patient age at surgery was 8.8 years (range, 1.5-17 years). Trauma was the most common cause of soft-tissue defect (n = 12); other causes were surgical-site infections (n = 2), tumours (n = 3), chronic ulcer (n = 1), burn injury (n = 1), and infusion fluid extravasation (n = 1). Results: Of the 20 flaps, 16 (80%) remained fully viable, whereas 4 developed partial necrosis requiring excision and skin grafting, which consistently ensured a good outcome. Other complications consisted of marginal necrosis (n = 4), unsightly donor-site scars (n = 5), and infection (n = 2). Abnormal flap sensation was noted in 11 patients. The mean modified Kitaoka score was 65/80 (range, 0-80), and the score value indicated that function was excellent in 9 (45%) patients, good in 9 (45%) patients, and poor in 2 (10%) patients. Discussion: The distally based sural fascio-cutaneous flap is a method of choice for covering soft-tissue defects of the ankle and foot in paediatric patients. This reliable flap spares the major blood vessels and has a strong blood supply. Its best indication is coverage of an acute traumatic soft-tissue defect with exposure of a vital structure. In patients requiring late reconstruction, caution is in order when considering the use of a distally based sural fascio-cutaneous flap, which can induce delayed complications, most notably at the donor site. Level of evidence: IV, retrospective case-series study.
Grandjean, A., Romana, C., & Fitoussi, F. (2016). Distally based sural flap for ankle and foot coverage in children. Orthopaedics and Traumatology: Surgery and Research, 102(1), 111–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.otsr.2015.10.010