Free gracilis muscle flap for sarcoma reconstruction: 19 years of clinical experience

Rachel Pedreira, Nicholas A. Calotta, E. Gene Deune

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Sarcoma treatment necessitates high-dose chemoradiation therapy and wide surgical margins that create wounds that are difficult to reconstruct. Many techniques have been developed to cover these defects, originating with muscle flaps such as the rectus abdominis and latissimus dorsi. The gracilis flap, which is best known in contemporary practice as a microneurovascular flap for functional reconstructions, is not usually considered a robust option for reconstruction after sarcoma extirpation. Methods. We reviewed records of 22 patients (9 women) at our institution who underwent reconstructive surgery after sarcoma extirpation using gracilis flaps for soft-tissue coverage from 1998 to 2017. Neurotized gracilis flaps were excluded. The mean patient age was 51 years (range, 18-85 years), and mean length of follow-up was 53 months (range, 9-156 months). Patients had 7 tumor types, with fibrosarcomas and undifferentiated tumors being most common. There were 23 defects (mean size, 118 cm 2 (range, 54-200 cm 2 )). Defects were located most commonly in the foot and leg (n=9 each), upper extremity (n=4), and head and neck (n=1). The primary outcome was the flap success rate. Secondary outcomes were rates of major complications (unplanned reoperations, infections requiring intravenous antibiotics, and amputations); minor complications (superficial infections, partial skin-graft loss, partial flap necrosis, fluid collections treated in the office, and cosmetic reoperations); and sarcoma recurrence. Results. Twenty-one flaps (91%) survived. Six patients (27%) experienced a major complication, and 12 patients (54%) experienced a minor complication. There were 2 amputations, for a limb salvage rate of 91%. Conclusions. This series shows that the gracilis is well suited to covering large, compromised wounds across diverse anatomic features, which are the hallmark of sarcoma resections. The high rate of limb salvage and minimal donor-site morbidity further support the use of this flap as a first-line option for sarcoma reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3975020
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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