Improving recipient vessel exposure during microvascular breast reconstruction
Microvascular tissue transfer has become the gold standard for breast reconstruction. The primary drawback to these procedures is the technical expertise required for microsurgical anastomosis. This problem is compounded by the difficulties in the exposure of recipient vessels deep within the axilla. Previous techniques used for exposure of these vessels are difficult to setup, provide less than optimal exposure, and have been associated with brachial plexus injuries. The authors retrospectively review their experience using the pediatric OMNI retractor for exposure of recipient vessels during microvascular breast reconstruction. Patient demographics, flap choice, recipient vessels, the incidence of neuropraxia/brachial plexopathy, and microvascular complications were analyzed. Patients in whom more traditional methods of vessel exposure were used (ie, Gelpi retractors, arm positioning, fish hooks; 517 reconstructions in 392 patients) were compared with patients in whom vessel exposure was performed using the pediatric OMNI retractor (699 reconstructions in 571 patients). No differences were noted in comorbid conditions or the incidence of microvascular complications. However, the use of the pediatric OMNI was associated with a significant reduction in operative time in unilateral reconstructions (6:23 +/- 0.05 h vs 7:48 +/- 0.05 h; P <0.01) and decreased incidence of brachial plexus injury (0.17% vs 3.3%; P <0.01). The authors think the decreased neuropraxia rate is the result of better exposure afforded by the pediatric OMNI retractor, which improves exposure and eliminates the need for excessive arm abduction or awkward positioning during the dissection and anastomosis of axillary recipient vessels.