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Microsurgery. 2017 Nov;37(8):937-946. doi: 10.1002/micr.30244. Epub 2017 Sep 26.

Comparing the thoracodorsal and internal mammary vessels as recipients for microsurgical autologous breast reconstruction: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Division of Plastic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Department of Surgery, Section of Plastic Surgery, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada.



Our aim was to determine whether the thoracodorsal (Td) vessels have comparable clinical outcomes to the internal mammary (IM) vessels as recipients for autologous free tissue transfer for breast reconstruction.


Systematic searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, and World of Science from inception to June 2016 were performed by two independent reviewers. Studies that included adult females undergoing autologous free tissue transfer for breast reconstruction were selected. The two comparison groups were the use of IM or Td as recipient vessels. Our primary outcome was rate of flap survival. We assessed the methodologic quality of included studies using the JADAD and MINOR scales.


A total of 1897 patients underwent 2644 free abdominal flap tissue transfer in the 10 articles that were included in our analysis. There was one randomized controlled study (Jadad score 2/5) and 9 nonrandomized controlled studies (MINORS scores 11-19/24). There was no difference between the uses of either vessel in terms of flap loss (1.18; 95% CI 0.71-1.95). Complication rate among the IM vessels ranged from 5 to 12%, compared with 3.4-12% among Td vessels. Hematoma and seroma rates were variable. Fat necrosis was higher with Td vessels in two studies. Performing Td vessels anastomosis was associated with shorter operative time and higher risk of encountering unusable vessel.


Both recipient vessels are safe, reliable and demonstrate equivocal results in the absence of contraindications. Utilizing either as a first-line vessel is reasonable, depending on surgeons' preference or certain clinical scenarios.


Therapeutic, Level of evidence: III.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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