To examine our outcomes with skin paddle survival using pectoralis myocutaneous flaps in reconstruction of the head and neck. The pectoralis major myocutaneous flap has been associated with a notable incidence of distal skin necrosis and flap loss. Our experience has been favorable compared with that reported in the literature.
Retrospective medical record review of 81 cases of pectoralis major muscle flap reconstruction performed in 78 patients from 1995 to 2008 using a flap harvest technique that is slightly different from the classic descriptions. Data were obtained regarding coexisting health conditions and perioperative complications, which were divided into major and minor categories. Major complications were defined as total flap failure or greater than 25% skin paddle loss. Minor complications and donor site complications included fistulas that were managed conservatively, wound dehiscence not requiring additional surgery, local infections, seromas, and hematomas.
Of the 81 flaps performed, 22 complications were encountered. Total flap loss was not encountered in any patient. The overall major complication rate in myocutaneous flaps was 3 of 76 (4%), with these cases consisting of significant skin paddle loss. Minor complications occurred in 14 of 81 myofascial and myocutaneous flaps (17%). Donor site complications of the chest wall occurred in 5 of 81 flaps (6%).
Skin paddle necrosis may be minimized with modifications of the classic technique. We believe that extension of the skin flap over the rectus sheath is the cause of distal skin flap necrosis. The pectoralis major myocutaneous flap remains a valuable reconstructive option in the head and neck.