Thirty-seven consecutive free anterolateral thigh flaps in 36 patients were transferred for reconstruction of head and neck defects following cancer ablation between January of 1997 and June of 1998. The success rate was 97 percent (36 of 37), with one flap lost due to a twisted perforator. The anatomic variations and length of the vascular pedicle were investigated to obtain better knowledge of anatomy and to avoid several surgical pitfalls when it is used for head and neck reconstruction. The cutaneous perforators were always found and presented as musculocutaneous or septocutaneous perforators in this series of 37 anterolateral thigh flaps. They were classified into four types according to the perforator derivation and the direction in which it traversed the vastus lateralis muscle. In type I, vertical musculocutaneous perforators from the descending branch of the lateral circumflex femoral artery were found in 56.8 percent of cases (21 of 37), and they were 4.83 ± 2.04 cm in length. In type II, horizontal musculocutaneous perforators from the transverse branch of the lateral circumflex femoral artery were found in 27.0 percent of cases (10 of 37), and they were 6.77 ± 3.48 cm in length. In type III, vertical septocutaneous perforators from the descending branch of the lateral circumflex femoral artery were found in 10.8 percent of cases (4 of 37), and they were 3.60 ± 1.47 cm in length. In type IV, horizontal septocutaneous perforators from the transverse branch of the lateral circumflex femoral artery were found in 5.4 percent of cases (2 of 37). They were 7.75 ± 1.06 cm in length. The average length of vascular pedicle was 12.01 ± 1.50 cm, and the arterial diameter was around 2.0 to 2.5 mm; two accompanying veins varied from 1.8 to 3.0 mm and were suitable for anastomosis with the neck vessels. Reconstruction of one-layer defect, external skin or intraoral lining, was carried out in 18 cases, throug-hand-through defect in 17 cases, and composite mandibular defect in two cases. With increasing knowledge of anatomy and refinements of surgical technique, the anterolateral thigh flap can be harvested safely to reconstruct complicated defects of head and neck following cancer ablation with only minimal donor-site morbidity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes