Flap Reconstruction of Perineal Defects after Pelvic Exenteration: A Systematic Description of Four Choices of Surgical Reconstruction Methods

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2021 Jun 1;147(6):1420-1435. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000007976.


Background: The treatment of locally advanced or recurrent anorectal cancer requires radical surgery such as extralevator abdominoperineal resection and pelvic exenteration. Larger defects require flap reconstruction. The authors evaluated outcomes of different perineal reconstruction techniques.

Methods: A systematic search was performed in the PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane databases. Studies reporting outcomes on perineal flap reconstruction in patients with anal or colorectal cancer were included. Data on patient characteristics, surgical details, perineal and donor-site complications, revision surgery, mortality, and quality of life were extracted. Articles were assessed using the Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation approach.

Results: The authors included 58 mainly observational studies comprising 1988 patients. Seventy-three percent of patients had rectal cancer. The majority of 910 abdominoperineal resection patients underwent reconstruction with rectus abdominis flaps (91 percent). Dehiscence (15 to 32 percent) and wound infection (8 to 16 percent) were the most common complications. Partial flap necrosis occurred in 2 to 4 percent and flap loss occurred in 0 to 2 percent. Perineal herniation was seen in 6 percent after gluteal flap reconstruction and in 0 to 1 percent after other types of reconstruction. Donor-site complications were substantial but were reported inconsistently.

Conclusions: Clinical outcome data on perineal reconstruction after exenterative surgery are mostly of very low quality. Perineal reconstruction after pelvic exenteration is complex and requires a patient-tailored approach. Primary defect size, reconstruction aims, donor-site availability, and long-term morbidity should be taken into account. This review describes the clinical outcomes of four flap reconstruction techniques. Shared clinical decision-making on perineal reconstruction should be based on these present comprehensive data.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Pelvic Exenteration / adverse effects*
  • Perineum / surgery*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surgical Flaps / transplantation*
  • Surgical Wound / etiology
  • Surgical Wound / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome