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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2002 May;109(6):1912-8.

Perforator topography of the deep inferior epigastric perforator flap in 100 cases of breast reconstruction.

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Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Uz-Gasthuisberg, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Medical School, Leuven, Belgium.


The anatomic topography of the perforators within the rectus muscle and the anterior fascia largely determines the time needed to harvest the perforator free flap and the difficulty of the procedure. In 100 consecutive cases, the topographic patterns of the perforators were investigated. In 65 percent, a short intramuscular course was seen. In 16 percent, a perforator at the tendinous intersection was encountered. In 9 percent, the largest perforator was found to have a long intramuscular course. In 5 percent, a subfascial course was found, and in another 5 percent, a paramedian course was found. In 74 percent of flaps, just one perforator was used, whereas two perforators were dissected in 20 percent. Only in 6 percent of flaps were three perforators used. A long intramuscular course (>4 cm) lengthens the dissection substantially, especially when the intramuscular course is in a step-wise pattern. The subfascial course requires precarious attention at the early stage of the perforator dissection when splitting the fascia. The perforators at the tendinous intersections are the most accessible and require a short but intense dissection in the fibrotic tissue of intersection. A paramedian perforator, medial to the rectus muscle, is a septocutaneous rather than a musculocutaneous perforator. The straightforward dissection almost extends up to the midline. Therefore, dissection always is performed at one side and, if no good perforators are present, continued at the intact contralateral side. The size of these perforators and their location in the flap determine the choice. One perforator with significant flow can perfuse the whole flap. If in doubt, two perforators can be harvested, especially if they show a linear anatomy so that muscle fibers can be split. The only interference with the muscle exists in splitting the muscle fibers. A perforator that lies in the middle of the flap is preferable. For a large flap, a perforator of the medial row provides better perfusion to zone 4 than one of the lateral row because of the extra choke vessel for the lateral row perforators. The clinical appearance of the perforators is the key element in the dissection of the perforator flap. Perforator topography determines the overall length and difficulty of the procedure.

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