Background: The number of patients suffering from a diabetic foot syndrome is increasing. In many cases large plantar or heel defects can only be reconstructed by using a free flap. The free parascapular flap is an alternative to free muscle flaps in the reconstruction of plantar or heel defects. Donor site morbidity is low. Autologous bypass reconstruction or an angioplasty can increase extremity perfusion. PATIENTS AND OPERATIONS: 52 patients with a diabetic foot syndrome have been reconstructed since 2007. 23 of them required a free tissue transfer. On average these patients were 68.7 years of age. A parascapular flap was used in 15 cases, a latissimus dorsi flap with a skin graft in 4 cases, a gracilis muscle flap with a skin graft in 3 cases. In one case a free instep flap of the contralateral foot, which had to be amputated, was used. In 13 cases the flap was anastomosed to the autologous bypass, in one case an AV loop was used.
Results: 22 flaps healed primarily. Only 1 patient was not able to walk at discharge. There was one flap loss. 4 patients required an amputation later on due to bypass failure or infection. 2 patients died due to cardiac arrest at the rehabilitation clinic.
Conclusion: If the correct indication is met, free flaps can prevent diabetes-derived amputations of the lower limb. The parascapular flap can be used for plantar and heel defects. Flap harvesting is quick due to the constant vascular anatomy. The donor site morbidity is low. Reconstruction requires revascularisation in an interdisciplinary setting including vascular surgeons and radiologists. Limb salvage reduces mortality and improves quality of life. Revascularisation and reconstruction should best be done in a single surgical procedure.
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