Strategies for Reconstruction of the Plantar Surface of the Foot: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2019 Apr;143(4):1223-1244. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000005448.


Background: Reconstruction of the plantar surface of the foot is challenging because of its distinctive anatomy and microarchitecture. Unfortunately, no single coverage option meets the needs of all patients and defects. A comprehensive literature review is presented to better define available reconstructive options for resurfacing the plantar foot.

Methods: A systematic literature search was performed to identify articles relating to reconstruction of the plantar skin and soft tissue. The PubMed, Embase, and Scopus databases were queried for published articles. After the exclusion of duplicate records, 1624 articles were available for review. A total of 280 unique articles were included for analysis, with a total of 2684 individual reconstructions.

Results: Of the articles reviewed, 10 percent described a skin grafting technique, 53 percent described a locoregional flap, 32 percent described free tissue transfer, and 5 percent described multiple reconstructive methods. Isolated heel defects were the most frequently reconstructed subunit of the plantar foot (73 percent). The latissimus dorsi muscle was the most commonly used free flap, whereas the reverse sural artery flap was the most commonly used locoregional flap. Protective sensation was noted in most locoregional and free flap reconstructions, regardless of primary neurotization; however, improved two-point discrimination was noted when neurofasciocutaneous flaps were used. Complication rates varied widely, although rates of flap loss approached those of flaps performed at other anatomical sites.

Conclusions: Numerous methods exist for reconstructing the plantar surface. Proper flap selection should be determined by the size of the defect, the availability of donor tissue, and the surgeon's experience and comfort with the reconstructive technique.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetic Foot / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Transplantation / methods*
  • Skin, Artificial
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / methods
  • Transplantation, Autologous / methods