Is primary thinning of the anterolateral thigh flap recommended?

Ann Plast Surg. 2010 Dec;65(6):555-9. doi: 10.1097/SAP.0b013e3181cbfebc.


Background: Although primary thinning of the anterolateral thigh (ALT) flap has been successful in Asia, clinical and anatomic studies have demonstrated that this may be inadvisable in Western patients. Recent reports have demonstrated successful thinning of the ALT using smaller flaps. A systematic review was attempted, to assess whether ALT size affects the incidence of vascular compromise after primary thinning.

Methods: A systematic review was undertaken to examine the relevant literature. Student t-test was used to compare flaps that did and did not have complications. Fisher exact test was used to compare outcomes of flaps measuring less than and greater than 150 cm2.

Results: Eleven articles met the inclusion criteria. Eighty-eight ALT flaps were reported, and vascular compromise was seen in 11 (12.5%). The average size of flaps that demonstrated necrosis was 180.73 cm2; those without necrosis averaged 123.19 cm2 (P = 0.06). Flaps >150 cm2 had a significantly increased rate of compromise (25.93% vs. 6.56%; P < 0.05).

Conclusions: A systematic literature review confirms that it is inadvisable to primarily thin large ALT flaps in the Western population. When large ALT flaps are required, primary thinning must be avoided to keep linking vessels intact.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Free Tissue Flaps*
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Thigh