The use of a pectoralis major flap to improve internal mammary vessels exposure and reduce contour deformity in microvascular free flap breast reconstruction
Reconstructive Surgical Procedures
Internal mammary vessels are commonly used in microvascular breast reconstruction. Most surgeons resect a portion of the rib to expose these vessels. This resection can lead to contour abnormalities in the chest wall that are difficult to correct. In addition, exposure of these vessels deep in the wound can be problematic. The purpose of this study was to evaluate our experience with a pectoralis major flap designed to improve exposure and fill in the defect created by rib resection. All consecutive patients who underwent autologous breast reconstruction using the internal mammary vessels as recipient vessels between 2000 and 2005 were identified. All procedures were performed by a single surgeon. In each case, a superiorly based flap within the pectoralis major muscle spanning the bottom of the second rib to the top of the fourth costal cartilage was raised. This "L"-shaped flap was reflected and a portion of the third rib cartilage was excised. At the conclusion of the microsurgical anastomosis the pectoralis major flap was repaired and used to cover the defect created by rib resection. Patient demographic, operative details, and postoperative complications were obtained from a prospectively maintained clinical database. Deformity around sternal border was evaluated from the patients' photographs. There were 99 autologous reconstructions in 90 patients. In 71 cases the internal mammary artery/vein were used as recipient vessels. There were no cases of microvascular thrombosis or flap loss. A portion of the third rib was excised in all patients who underwent microsurgical anastomoses to the internal mammary vessels. In 3 patients a portion of both the second and third ribs was removed because of branching of the internal mammary vein proximal to the level of the third rib. A contour deformity was noted in 4 patients (4.4%) after a mean follow-up of 27 months. Of the 4 patients with contour deformity, 2 had a portion of both the third and second costal cartilage removed because of venous branching above the level of the third rib cartilage. The modified pectoralis major L-shaped flap is a useful technique for safe and clear exposure of the internal mammary vessels. In addition, the use of this flap to cover the segment of resected rib cartilage can decrease the contour deformities associated with rib resection as compared with reported rates in the literature. Resection of multiple rib segments, though unavoidable at times because of anatomic considerations, may be associated with an increased rate of postoperative contour deformities.