IMPORTANCE Reconstruction of the scalp after acquired defects remains a common challenge for the reconstructive surgeon, especially in a patient with a history of radiation to the area. OBJECTIVE To review the current literature and describe a novel algorithm to help guide the reconstructive surgeon in determining the optimal reconstruction from a cosmetic and functional standpoint. Pertinent surgical anatomy, considerations for patient and technique selection, reconstructive goals, as well as the reconstructive ladder, are also discussed. EVIDENCE REVIEW A PubMed and Medline search was performed of the entire English literature with respect to scalp reconstruction. Priority of review was given to those studies with higher-quality levels of evidence. FINDINGS Size, location, radiation history, and potential for hairline distortion are important factors in determining the ideal reconstruction. The tighter and looser areas of the scalp play a major role in the potential for primary or local flap closure. Patients with medium to large defects and a history of radiation will likely benefit from free tissue transfer. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Ideal reconstruction of scalp defects relies on a comprehensive understanding of scalp anatomy, a full consideration of the armamentarium of surgical techniques, and a detailed appraisal of patient factors and expectations. The simplest reconstruction should be used whenever possible to provide the most functional and aesthetic scalp reconstruction, with the least amount of complexity.
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