Advancement Flaps in Dermatologic Surgery Treatment & Management
- Author: Desiree Ratner, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD more...
As with all procedures, a detailed medical history must be obtained prior to performing surgery. The patient's general health status and medical problems (eg, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, cardiac disease, pacemaker, lung disease) should be documented. The surgeon must inquire about any conditions (eg, defective heart valve, congenital heart disease) that may require the use of prophylactic antibiotics prior to surgery. The patient's medications and any allergies to medications must be noted. The patient should be asked about any abnormal scarring, excessive bruising, fainting episodes, seizures, or any problems with prior surgeries. Patients with multiple or complex medical problems may require medical clearance from an internist.
All medications that can interfere with platelet function or the clotting cascade must be identified before surgery. Patients should limit the intake of vitamin E and gingko biloba, both of which may interfere with clotting. Aspirin (salicylic acid) interferes with platelet function by irreversibly blocking the cyclo-oxygenase pathway. Ibuprofen and related medications also affect platelet function, but their effects are reversible. Because nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents are commonly used, patients may not identify them on screening questionnaires; therefore, specific questions regarding these medications are necessary. If at all possible, these medications should be discontinued before surgery. Aspirin should be stopped 10 days prior to surgery; other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be discontinued 2-5 days before surgery. Acetaminophen is an excellent analgesic substitute that does not interfere with the clotting mechanism.
Intraoperative details are described below.
Design and Types of Advancement Flaps
The single-arm advancement flap, or Burow wedge flap, involves the removal of 2 cutaneous triangles. The first triangle is at the base of the defect, while the second triangle advances the flap into the defect. The O-to-T or A-to-T advancement flaps consist of Burow wedges on either side of the defect, with dog ears on the same side of the wound. These flaps are selected to limit the effects of primary and secondary motion on anatomical structures and to use the cosmetic units and the skin tension lines to hide incision lines.
H-plasty consists of bilateral rectangular flaps advanced into the defect. This flap may create 4 dog ears, which can be placed in a cosmetically pleasing manner. In some cases, dog ears may be sewn out by using the rule of halves. An advantage of this flap is that the components cancel out secondary motion. In addition, the small size of the flaps allows good blood flow to the distal portion of the flap, reducing the risk of necrosis.
The island pedicle flap takes advantage of areas of increased tissue elasticity, such as the cheeks, the lips, the nasal sidewall, the preauricular area, and the helix of the ear. This flap consists of a V-shaped island of tissue that maintains a narrow pedicle of subcutaneous fat and underlying muscle while it is advanced into the defect.
Advancement Flaps by Anatomical Location
The cheek is one of the cosmetic units with the fewest potential danger zones. The facial nerve and its branches, in particular, the marginal mandibular nerve and the temporal nerve, are at highest risk. Anterior to the facial artery, the marginal mandibular branch lies above the mandible, but it is covered by only a thin layer of skin, subcutaneous fat, and the platysma muscle. The temporal nerve is most vulnerable where it crosses the zygomatic arch and enters the temple region. The relatively deep location of the parotid duct makes injury to it unlikely. On the cheek, 3 areas hide scars well: the nasofacial sulcus, the melolabial line, and the pretragal sulcus. The free margins at risk for distortion are the lower eyelid, the upper lip, and the oral commissures.
Advancement flaps can be used for reconstruction of defects of the preauricular area by using tissue from the cheek and the neck. Medial cheek defects can be repaired by medial advancement of lateral cheek tissue, and tension is best placed horizontally. Defects of the upper medial cheek can be repaired by advancement of tissue from the inferior cheek by using incisions along the nasofacial sulcus and the melolabial groove. See the images below.
Forehead and eyebrows
Rectangular advancement flaps work well on either the eyebrow or the forehead. At times, the need for vertically oriented dog ears can be limited by using the rule of halves to suture the flap into place. A-to-T flaps are also appropriate for the hairline and for the lower parts of the forehead. Horizontal lines can be placed in creases or along the boundaries between cosmetic units (eg, in the junction between the forehead and the eyebrow or upper eyelid). Special considerations when operating on the forehead include the following:[2, 3, 4]
Greater wound tension than in other cosmetic units because of less available tissue
Importance of maintaining cosmetic boundaries, such as the hairline
Avoidance of the temporal branch of the facial nerve (which tends to be deeper over the forehead and more superficial over the zygomatic arch) and, if possible, the supraorbital and supratrochlear nerves and the anterior branch of the temporal artery laterally
Placement of surgical scars in the hairline brow and along relaxed skin tension lines
Tissue reservoirs on the forehead include the glabella and, most importantly, the temple region.
Eyebrow reconstruction is best achieved by using bilateral rectangular advancement flaps, which avoid a long scar that transgresses cosmetic boundaries and repair the eyebrow with hair-bearing skin. In addition, scars may be hidden in the upper eyelid crease and along horizontal forehead lines.
See the images below.
Advancement flaps are useful for repairing defects on the upper lip. A larger defect on the lateral upper lip can be corrected by using a Burow advancement flap with the lower dog ear pole displaced toward the oral commissure or the melolabial fold. Closure of the lower triangle advances the flap toward the lip wound. Burow triangles are nicely hidden in the cheek and the nasal alar junction and lateral to the oral commissure. Although this flap can flatten the melolabial groove, this effect can be minimized by using a periosteal suspension suture to the piriform aperture of the maxilla to help create a new groove. A-to-T advancement flaps can easily repair smaller defects on the upper lip.
Symmetric reconstruction of the apical triangle of the upper lip can be achieved by making an incision extending from the alar crease along the nasal sill, and along the cutaneous upper lip. This modification creates a sliding flap that assists in recreating the apical triangle, thereby preserving facial symmetry.
Inferolaterally placed (relative to the nose) island pedicle flaps that allow 2 of 3 closure lines to be hidden in the alar crease and the nasolabial fold can repair superolateral defects. A modified approach to alar crescent flap closure has been reported.[7, 8] See the images shown below.
Burow wedge advancement flaps may be used to repair lower midline dorsal defects of the nose if placed immediately adjacent to the defect. Advancement flaps consisting of only nasal skin are usually not used in reconstruction of the upper part of the nose because only limited amounts of skin are available. Lateral nasal sidewall defects close to the nasofacial sulcus can be repaired with advancement flaps that use cheek tissue. Incisions can be hidden in the infraorbital crease and in the melolabial groove. Advancement of the skin of the nasal dorsum and root can be used for tip and supratip defects. However, this type of repair can elevate the nasal tip and change the nasal contour.[9, 10, 11] A columellar advancement flap has been described for small midline nasall defects.
Defects of the helix can be repaired by using a Burow advancement flap that creates a dog ear behind the ear and a second potential dog ear of the ear lobe. Chondrocutaneous flaps can be helpful in repairing full-thickness defects.
See the images below.
The most common complication of an advancement flap is undersizing the flap. In general, the ability of the advancement flap to cover a defect is not much better than that of a comparable fusiform closure.
Avoiding distortion of free margins, such as the eyelid, the lip, and the eyebrow, is of utmost importance when using advancement flaps. Careful planning of the flap, as well as intraoperative testing for potential distortions, is essential.
Ecchymosis and edema can occur up to 24 hours after the procedure and result from surgical trauma. Surgery on the scalp or the forehead usually leads to ecchymoses of the upper eyelid before affecting the lower eyelid. Cheek surgery may result in a bruise on the jaw line. Ecchymoses do not affect the final outcome, and they spontaneously resolve; however, they can be alarming to the patient, and reassurance may be necessary.
Most bleeding complications are the result of drug-related coagulopathy (see Preoperative details) or faulty intraoperative hemostasis. In addition, excessive postoperative activity can result in bleeding.
As anesthesia wears off, bleeding may occur along the suture line. If bleeding cannot be controlled by applying simple pressure for approximately 15 minutes, the sutures must be removed and hemostasis achieved. At this time, the surgeon may reinject the site with a local anesthetic containing epinephrine or apply an epinephrine-soaked cotton sponge on the wound bed. Subsequent application of a pressure dressing also aids in hemostasis.
Occult bleeding may emanate from the muscles used in facial expression and from blood vessels between the fat lobules deep in the subcutaneous tissue. If bleeding persists, placing a drain or widening suture gaps to allow blood to egress to an absorbent dressing is necessary to prevent hematoma formation.
If a hematoma is discovered in the first 24 hours after surgery, if it is symptomatic, or if it appears to be endangering the flap, it should be immediately evacuated and the wound resutured.
Signs of infection include erythema, edema, tenderness, and exudation from the suture line. Bacterial culture and sensitivities should be obtained prior to initiating systemic therapy. If necessary, the sutures should be removed and replaced by adhesive strips. In addition, wounds with copious drainage should be irrigated with sodium chloride solution, and a wick fashioned from plain gauze should be inserted into the wound to aid in drainage. The wound should be allowed to heal by secondary intention.
Lengthy procedures or those in which the wound remains open for a long period before closure may merit prophylactic antibiotics. Some surgeons consider the axilla, the ear, and the groin to be at high risk for infection and routinely administer prophylactic antibiotics prior to and/or after the procedure. In addition, diabetes mellitus and immunosuppression due to illness or drugs may be indications for antibiotic prophylaxis. To be of value in patients with diabetes or immunosuppression, antibiotics must be adequately concentrated in the tissue prior to the procedure. Thus, oral antibiotics should be administered 24 hours prior to surgery.
Dehiscence may be caused by infection or hematoma. In addition, it may be iatrogenic as a result of premature suture removal or lack of placement of required subcutaneous sutures. If dehiscence results from inadequate tensile strength at suture removal, simply resuturing the wound is sufficient; however, wounds complicated by infection, ischemia, or necrosis should be allowed to heal by secondary intention.
Any factor that compromises the flap's subdermal plexus blood supply may cause ischemia and subsequent tissue necrosis. The most important causes include faulty flap design or increased wound tension. Flaps that necrose are allowed to heal by secondary intention.
Neck flaps have an increased risk of hematoma formation because all patients inadvertently move their necks. The surgeon should avoid trauma to superficially located motor nerves, including the terminal branches of the facial nerve, the spinal accessory nerve, and the digital nerves. The superficially located parotid gland and the sensory greater auricular nerve should also be avoided. Because sensory nerves terminate in the skin, some degree of numbness and/or dysesthesia is not unexpected. These sensory abnormalities are temporary and usually resolve or diminish within 3-6 months after surgery.
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