Background: The aim of lower extremity reconstruction has focused on early wound coverage and functional recovery but rarely aesthetics. Free muscle flaps provide durable coverage; however, they require skin graft coverage and result in muscle atrophy limiting future revisions. Perforator-based flap reconstructions can be easily elevated to allow for both orthopedic and contouring procedures. The authors reviewed the role of secondary procedures in achieving improved functional and aesthetic results following perforator flap reconstruction of lower extremity defects. Methods: A retrospective review identified 70 patients treated at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center with 73 free perforator flaps for coverage of lower extremity wounds from 2002 to 2009. Results: Seventy patients were identified who underwent reconstruction with a perforator flap: 65 with anterolateral thigh flaps and five with superficial circumflex iliac artery flaps. Nineteen of these patients underwent 32 refinement procedures of the reconstructed limb. Fifteen refinements were performed with suction-assisted lipectomy, 21 with complex tissue rearrangement, including sharp debulking, and one with tissue expanders. Twenty-seven of the 70 patients underwent 40 orthopedic-related secondary procedures in which the free flap was elevated. The most common reasons for the orthopedic interventions were tibial nonunion requiring bone grafting (n = 17) and osteomyelitis (n = 11). Conclusions: Limb salvage remains the primary goal of lower extremity reconstruction. Following convalescence and functional recovery, however, appearance becomes increasingly important with regard to quality of life. Initial flap selection with free perforator flaps, meticulous inset, and secondary refinements provide superior functional and aesthetic outcomes.
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