Anatomical variants of lower limb vasculature and implications for free fibula flap: Systematic review and critical analysis

Microsurgery. 2016 Feb;36(2):165-72. doi: 10.1002/micr.30016. Epub 2015 Dec 16.


Sound knowledge of the anatomical patterns of lower limb vasculature is crucial for raising the free fibula flap (FFF). The tibial arteries are particularly susceptible to anatomical variations with a dominant role of peroneal artery (PR) for lower leg perfusion, and hence precluding fibular flap harvest. In this systematic review we study the prevalence of lower limbs with dominant peroneal artery (dPR). A systematic review of the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases was conducted using a comprehensive combination of keywords and search algorithm according to PRISMA guidelines. Articles describing the branching patterns of lower limb arteries, in cadaveric or angiographic studies, were included. A total of 5,790 limbs were included from 26 studies. dPR was found in 5.2% of all limbs. The combination of dPR with hypoplastic or aplastic posterior tibial artery was the most common pattern (3.3%) followed by hypoplastic anterior tibial artery (1.5%). Peronea arteria magna (PAM) was seen in 0.4% of limbs. Bilateral variants were seen in 20% of all cases with a dPR. A greater awareness of dPR as anatomical variation and its prevalence among healthy subjects can prevent ischemic donor-site complications after FFF harvest. Clinical examination alone may not suffice to detect anatomical variations, hence preoperative imaging of lower limb vascular system is recommended.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Fibula / blood supply*
  • Fibula / transplantation
  • Free Tissue Flaps / blood supply*
  • Free Tissue Flaps / transplantation
  • Humans
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Tibial Arteries / anatomy & histology