Microsurgical refinements with the use of internal mammary (IM) perforators as recipient vessels in transverse upper gracilis (TUG) autologous breast reconstruction

Gland Surg. 2017 Aug;6(4):375-379. doi: 10.21037/gs.2017.05.04.


Background: The transverse upper gracilis (TUG) flap is the senior authors' second choice for autologous breast reconstruction when the DIEP flap is not available. It provides durable, pliable tissue with well hidden scars. The main criticism of this flap is the limited volume, donor site complications, short pedicle and vessel mismatch depending on which recipient vessels are used. We described methods of reducing vessel mismatch, complications of venous coupler and refinements to help give a more superior aesthetic outcome.

Methods: We describe several maneuvers to help reduce vessel mismatch with the use of the internal mammary (IM) perforator vessels with a modification of the Harashina fish-mouth technique or the use of a vessel bifurcation to increase vessel diameter. We also describe the optimum method of perforator preparation and potential methods to prevent palpable venous couplers. The author's describe their case series of 14 TUG flaps to reconstruct 13 breasts in 12 patients.

Results: Eight unilateral, 2 partial breast reconstruction, 1 bilateral and 1 bilateral TUG flap for a unilateral reconstruction was carried out. All flaps survived with one partial flap necrosis, one donor site seroma and two cases of palpable/tender venous couplers. The mean reconstructed breast was 320 grams.

Conclusions: The TUG flap is a reconstructive challenge, but with correct planning a good aesthetic outcome is possible. The IM perforator is our first choice recipient vessel in TUG breast reconstructions. With meticulous preparation and by overcoming vessel mismatch the use of this recipient vessel is a reliable option.

Keywords: Breast reconstruction; DIEP; IMA perforators; autologous reconstruction; transverse upper gracilis (TUG).