The fibula free flap: Advantages of the muscle sparing technique

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The amount of muscle that should be retained on the free fibula during harvest is unresolved. Muscle is used to protect the periosteum, but by harvesting a large muscle cuff, the recipient and donor site morbidity increases. A retrospective review of 47 free fibula flaps performed between January 1997 and March 2002 was undertaken. There was an average follow-up of 15 months. The dissection method used for all cases was a muscle sparing technique where the peroneal vessels were skeletonised anteromedially. Only a very thin rim of muscle (1-2 mm) was left attached to the fibula. The recipient and donor vessels were flushed with heparin saline solution intra-operatively and a Dextran 40 infusion was used for four days post-operatively in all cases. Of the 47 flaps, 39 were used for mandible reconstruction, six for maxillary reconstruction and two for long bone reconstruction following trauma. The average age was 47.7 years (range 13-82) and two-thirds (28/43) of the patients were male. There was one post-operative death. The overall failure rate was 10.9% (5/46). Two flaps were lost as a result of arterial thrombosis, one from venous thrombosis, one from sepis and in one case the cause could not be determined. There were 2 (4.3%) recipient site haematomas. It is suggested that the low recipient site haematoma rate in this series may be related to the limited muscle bulk transferred with the flap. Harvesting less muscle also enables easier insetting and folding of skin flap, and reduces the donor site problems of haematoma and weakness of the foot. The blood supply to the fibula does not appear to be compromised. © 2003 The British Association of Plastic Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.




Graham, R. G., Swan, M. C., Hudson, D. A., & van Zyl, J. E. (2003). The fibula free flap: Advantages of the muscle sparing technique. British Journal of Plastic Surgery, 56(4), 388–394.

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