Chest wall reconstruction after oncological resections

Scand J Surg. 2013;102(1):9-13. doi: 10.1177/145749691310200103.


Most chest wall defects requiring reconstruction result from tumor resection. Bone and soft tissue sarcomas and recurrent mammary cancer are the most common tumors. Careful preoperative evaluation, meticulous surgical technique and active postoperative treatment are important. The selection of reconstruction is based on the nature, size and location of the defect as well as on the general health and prognosis of the patient. The goals of the reconstruction are adequate stability, water- and airtight closure of the chest cavity, and acceptable cosmetic appearance. The pedicled muscular or musculocutaneous flaps are usually the first choice for tis-sue coverage. These include flaps such as latissimus dorsi, vertical or transverse rectus abdominis and pectoralis. In certain cases also the breast flap or omental flap can be used. In selected cases, a free flap reconstruction is indicated if the local options for reconstruction have been used, or if they are unreliable due to earlier scars or radiotherapy. The free flaps to be used for chest wall can be harvested from the thigh (tensor fascia latae flap, anterolateral thigh flap), from the abdomen (transverse rectus abdominis flaps, deep epigastric perforator flaps) or from the chest wall (latissimus dorsi flap and other flaps based on the subscapular artery). Sometimes a fillet forearm can be used as a flap to cover a defect after extended forequarter amputation. Artificial meshes are commonly used to give stability in the defect and to give a platform for the flap. Methylmethacrylate embedded between the two layers of a mesh, or one or two rib grafts fixed to the mesh, can be used to give additional stability in extensive defects to prevent paradoxical movement.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Preoperative Care
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Thoracic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Thoracic Wall / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome