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Ann Plast Surg. 2013 Sep;71(3):255-60. doi: 10.1097/SAP.0b013e318286380e.

Optimizing the fascial closure: an analysis of 1261 abdominally based free flap reconstructions.

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  • 1Division of Plastic Surgery, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Donor-site morbidity continues to be a significant complication in patients undergoing abdominally based breast reconstruction. The purposes of our study were to critically examine abdominal donor-site morbidity and to present our algorithm for optimizing donor site closure to reduce these complications.


We performed a retrospective cohort study examining all patients undergoing abdominally based free tissue transfer for breast reconstruction from 2005 to 2011 at our institution. Data were analyzed for overall donor site morbidity, as defined by hernia/bulge or reoperation for debridement and/or mesh removal and for hernia/bulge alone.


A total of 812 patients underwent 1261 free tissue transfers. Fifty-three patients (6.5%) experienced donor-site morbidity, including 27 hernias/bulges (3.3%). No significant difference in overall abdominal morbidity was found between unilateral and bilateral reconstructions (P = 0.39) or the use of muscle in the flap (P = 0.11 unilateral msfTRAM, P = 0.76 bilateral). Prior lower abdominal surgery was associated with higher rates of donor-site morbidity (P = 0.04); hypertension (P = 0.012) and multiple medical comorbidities (P < 0.001) were also significantly more common in these patients. Obesity was the only patient characteristic associated with higher rates of hernia/bulge (P = 0.04). Delayed abdominal would healing was associated with hernia/bulge (P < 0.001); these patients were significantly more likely to develop this complication (odds ratio = 6.3, P < 0.001).


Particular attention must be provided to donor-site closure in obese patients and those with hypertension and multiple medical comorbidities. Low rates of abdominal wall morbidity result from meticulous fascial reconstruction and reinforcement and careful attention to tension-free soft tissue closure.

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