Arch Plast Surg.  2015 Jan;42(1):73-77. 10.5999/aps.2015.42.1.73.

The Axillary Approach to Raising the Latissimus Dorsi Free Flap for Facial Re-Animation: A Descriptive Surgical Technique

  • 1Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, The Royal Free Hospital, London, UK.


The latissimus dorsi flap is popular due to the versatile nature of its applications. When used as a pedicled flap it provides a robust solution when soft tissue coverage is required following breast, thoracic and head and neck surgery. Its utilization as a free flap is extensive due to the muscle's size, constant anatomy, large caliber of the pedicle and the fact it can be used for functional muscle transfers. In facial palsy it provides the surgeon with a long neurovascular pedicle that is invaluable in situations where commonly used facial vessels are not available, in congenital cases or where previous free functional muscle transfers have been attempted, or patients where a one-stage procedure is indicated and a long nerve is required to reach the contra-lateral side. Although some facial palsy surgeons use the trans-axillary approach, an operative guide of raising the flap by this method has not been provided. A clear guide of raising the flap with the patient in the supine position is described in detail and offers the benefits of reducing the risk of potential brachial plexus injury and allows two surgical teams to work synchronously to reduce operative time.


Facial palsy; Facial reanimation; Free flap; Latissimus dorsi

MeSH Terms

Brachial Plexus
Facial Paralysis
Free Tissue Flaps*
Operative Time
Superficial Back Muscles*
Supine Position
Surgical Flaps
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