Advancement Flaps Treatment & Management

Updated: Mar 24, 2017
  • Author: Anthony P Sclafani, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Treatment

Intraoperative Details

Monopedicled, bipedicled, and V-Y flaps constitute the 3 types of advancement flaps. Undermine the donor site of an advancement flap at a level below the subdermal plexus. Preserve a minimal amount of adipose tissue on the flap undersurface to preserve the subdermal plexus. Advance the flap in a straight line to the defect. [1, 2, 3]

When creating monopedicled or bipedicled flaps, redundant tissue at the flap base usually remains, which may be excised using Burrow triangles. On the face and scalp, a length-to-width ratio as great as 3-4:1 may be achieved. The flap is typically advanced a distance equivalent to the width of the flap (see the images below).

Standing cone deformities may occur within the surrounding skin, particularly near the flap base, as there is a discrepancy between the length of the incision on the surrounding skin (which also includes the length of the defect) and side the length of the incision on the flap side. This excess skin often can be distributed acceptably along the length of the closure, so the wound should be "closed by halves", reapproximating the wound edges through sutures that progressively divide the remaining wound in half. When the skin excess cannot be distributed successfully through this method, Burrow triangles can be excised. These wedges of skin surrounding the incision are based on the wound edge and are shaped and placed so as to fall into relaxed skin tension lines or existing skin creases or folds.

The photograph shows advancement flap incisions, w The photograph shows advancement flap incisions, with lesion to be excised. (The asterisk represents the distal end of the advancement flap; the double asterisk represents the proximal end of the advancement flap.)
The photograph shows advancement flap incisions wi The photograph shows advancement flap incisions with skin defect. (The asterisk represents the distal end of the advancement flap; the double asterisk represents the proximal end of the advancement flap.)
The photograph shows a flap advanced with creation The photograph shows a flap advanced with creation of "dog ears." (The asterisk represents the distal end of advancement flap; the double asterisk represents the proximal end of advancement flap; and the X represents the distal side of the dog ear.)
The photograph shows advancement flap with a dog-e The photograph shows advancement flap with a dog-ear excised using Burow triangles. (The asterisk represents the distal end of the advancement flap; the double asterisk represents the proximal end of the advancement flap; and the X represents the distal side of the dog ear.)
The photograph shows the final appearance of advan The photograph shows the final appearance of advancement flap repair using Burow triangles to correct dog ears.

Monopedicled and bipedicled flaps are useful whenever defects lie near an area of skin laxity and incisions resulting from flap creation appear favorable. Exercise caution when pulling tissue from the donor site so that tension does not create a cosmetic deformity (eg, ectropion, distortion of the vermilion border). These flaps are typically used around the upper lip or forehead.

A V-Y advancement flap is created by making a V-shaped incision and advancing the broad base of the V into the defect. [4] The resulting defect is closed primarily in a Y-shape (see the image below).

Drawing depicts a V-Y closure that converts the di Drawing depicts a V-Y closure that converts the distal portion of the V-shaped distal defect into a straight-line closure. The V-shaped flap is advanced in the opposite direction and then closed.

All advancement flaps should be under minimal tension. Further undermining may relieve excessive tension. Close incisions in multiple layers with interrupted stitches and absorbable sutures placed deep to the skin. Use nonabsorbable, nonreactive sutures for skin closure. Flaps may be revised later. If a long or tenuous flap is contemplated, surgeons may want to raise the flap in one procedure and wait 1-3 weeks before advancing the flap.

This action takes advantage of the delay phenomenon, which increases flap survival. The exact mechanism of the delay phenomenon is unknown, but it may work by opening choked vessels within the flap, thus increasing flap perfusion.

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Postoperative Details

Sutures are removed 1 week after surgery. As with any near-circumferential scar, wound contract may cause flap pincushioning or a trapdoor deformity. Flaps that show signs of pincushioning may be treated with subdermal triamcinolone injection (Kenalog) in small amounts (10 mg/cc, 0.05-0.15 cc). Any scar widening can be treated with scar excision, additional undermining, and meticulous closure. Scar dermabrasion may be offered to patients generally no earlier than 6 weeks postoperatively. Persistent scar erythema or peri-cicatricial telangiectasias, if unresolved in 8-12 weeks, may be treated with an appropriate wavelength laser, such as a 1064 nm Nd-YAG.

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Complications

In general, properly planned and executed advancement flaps are very reliable. Failure is generally unpredictable. Vascular insufficiency is the main cause of flap failure and may result from undermining in the wrong plane, excessive tension on the flap, hematoma, infection, or compression of the pedicle. Inadequate undermining or excessively larger defects may be associated with unacceptable wound tension and can lead to postoperative scar widening.

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Outcome and Prognosis

The advancement flap is a valuable tool for the surgeon repairing skin defects in the head and neck region. Proper patient selection and planning are essential. Advancement flaps are desirable because skin advanced from adjacent areas is usually a good match for color, thickness, and texture. Incisions can be hidden well in relaxed skin-tension lines or in borders of facial aesthetic units.

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Future and Controversies

The advancement flap is one of many techniques available to close skin defects of the head and neck. Often, a given defect may be closed in more than one way, and talented surgeons may disagree. Current research topics include the role of vasodilating agents, antiplatelet drugs, and hyperbaric oxygen. These research areas will probably improve techniques or provide agents to increase flap survival.

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