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J Craniofac Surg. 2007 Jan;18(1):198-202.

Adding versatility to the reconstruction of intraoral lining: opened pocket method.

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  • 1Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Istanbul University Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty, Istanbul, Turkey.


Reconstruction of a full-thickness cheek defect, especially one associated with a large lip and oral commissure defect, remains a challenge. After tumor excision, replacement of the oral mucosa is often necessary. The oral mucosa is a thin, pliable lining. Because the skin of the forearm is ideally suited for replacement of oral lining, being thin, pliable, and predominantly hairless, the radial forearm flap is the most frequently used soft-tissue flap for this purpose. In addition, the vascularity of the area allows substantial variation in the design of the flap, both in relation to its site and size. On the other hand, the radial forearm flap might be unusable in some occasions, such as in the case presented here. Thus, a search for an alternative free flap is required. We used a prefabricated scapular free flap to reconstruct a large concomitant lip and full-thickness cheek defect resulting from perioral cancer ablation. We introduce a new "opened pocket" method for reconstruction of the intra-oral lining without folding the flap. Resection of the tumor resulted in a defect including 45% of the upper lip, 50% of the lower lip, and a large, full-thickness defect of the cheek. The resultant defect was temporarily closed with a split-thickness skin graft. Meanwhile, the left scapular fasciocutaneous flap was prefabricated for permanent closure of the defect. The left scapular flap was outlined horizontally, and the flap orientation for the defect was estimated. Then, the distal portion of the flap was harvested and incised to create lips and oral commissure. Afterward, the raw surface under the neo-lip regions and the base where the flap was raised was grafted with one piece from a thick, split-thickness skin graft. Fourteen days later, the patient was taken back to the operating room for reconstruction of the defect with free transfer of a prefabricated scapular fascia-cutaneous flap. The grafted distal region of the flap was raised with the deep fascia located under the graft. Thus, a pocket was obtained. The flap was placed in the defect for final tailoring. Mucosal defect was evaluated to decide where the pocket was to be opened. Then, the grafted fascial portion of the flap was incised from the free edge to the neocommissure. Consequently, lower and upper lip mucosa were achieved by opening the pocket. The prefabricated flap was adapted to the defect with the appropriate sutures. The superior thyroid artery and internal jugular vein were used as recipient vessels. The postoperative period was uneventful. There were no healing problems of the suture lines of the opened pocket, and both labial sulci were quite adequate. The patient was able to resume a soft diet 10 days after the operation. She also had a satisfactory oral competence and an acceptable appearance, without microstomia. Despite its disadvantages, prefabrication can make the scapular fascia-cutaneous flap suitable for reconstruction of a large, concomitant lip and full-thickness cheek defect when other more appropriate flaps are not available. The opened pocket method appears not only to add flexibility to the restoration of the intra-oral lining but also reduces the stress resulting from free flap adaptation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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