Arch Craniofac Surg.  2022 Apr;23(2):64-70. 10.7181/acfs.2022.00171.

Perforating patterns of cutaneous perforator vessels in anterolateral thigh flaps for head and neck reconstruction and clinical outcomes

  • 1Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Gangnam Severance Hospital, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Institute for Human Tissue Restoration, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 3Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea


Anterolateral thigh (ALT) flaps are versatile soft tissue flaps that have become the standard soft-tissue flaps used for head and neck reconstruction. They provide a long vascular pedicle, constant vessel diameter, abundant soft tissue coverage, and minimal donor site morbidity. The ALT flap was initially designed on the basis of a septocutaneous (SC) perforator. However, more recent research has shown that a substantial number of ALT flaps are now based on musculocutaneous (MC) perforators, and the ratio between MC and SC perforators varies among studies. In this study, we analyzed the perforating pattern of ALT flaps along with their clinical outcomes during head and neck reconstruction in the Korean population.
From October 2016 to July 2020, 68 patients who had undergone an ALT flap procedure for head and neck reconstruction were enrolled retrospectively. The perforating pattern of the cutaneous perforator vessel (MC perforator/SC perforator/oblique branch), pedicle length, and flap size were analyzed intraoperatively. Patient demographics and flap necrosis rates were also calculated.
The highest number of cutaneous perforator vessels supplying the ALT flap were the MC perforators (87%). The proportion of MC perforators was significantly higher than that of the SC perforators and oblique branches. Flap necrosis occurred in seven cases (11.86%); sex, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, perforator course, and history of radiotherapy did not significantly affect flap necrosis.
The ALT free flap procedure remains popular for reconstruction of the head and neck. In this study, we observed that the majority of cutaneous vessels supplying the flaps were MC perforators (87%). When using the MC perforator during flap elevation, careful dissection of the perforator is required to achieve successful ALT flaps because intramuscular dissection is difficult. Perforator pattern and history of radiotherapy did not affect flap necrosis.


Free flap / Microsurgery / Reconstructive surgery
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