Reconstruction of Complex Scalp Defects in Different Locations: Suggestions for Puzzle

Sisli Etfal Hastan Tip Bul. 2021 Sep 24;55(3):349-358. doi: 10.14744/SEMB.2020.98475. eCollection 2021.


Objective: Scalp defects may occur following trauma, radiotherapy, oncologic resection, and recurrent surgeries. The hair-bearing scalp has a dual role, which consists of protecting the calvarium and contributing to aesthetic appearance. While the "reconstructive ladder" approach may be used to close small and medium-sized scalp defects, it is not the case for larger ones involving the calvarium or with a radiation therapy history. The aim of this study is to present cases operated due to complex scalp defects, analyze complications, and discuss the choice of reconstruction.

Material and methods: The study consists of 14 patients who were operated between December 2017 and August 2019 due to a complex scalp defect. Patient were evaluated according to age, gender, etiology, radiation therapy history, defect size and location, reconstruction steps, cranioplasty and duraplasty options, type of free flap, recipient artery, vein graft requirement, and complications.

Results: The mean age of patients, which consists of 11 men and three women, was 56.7 years. The etiology for scalp defects included basosquamous carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, giant basal cell carcinoma, atypical meningioma, glioblastoma multiforme, angiosarcoma, and anaplastic oligodendroglioma. The defect involved the full thickness of calvarium in nine cases and pericranium in five cases. Cranioplasties were made with rib graft (n=1), bone graft (n=1), and titanium mesh (n=7). Free flaps used for reconstruction were musculocutaneous latissimus dorsi (LD) (n=4), LD muscle (n=3), anterolateral thigh (ALT) (n=4), musculocutaneous ALT (n=1), vastus lateralis muscle (1), and rectus abdominis muscle (n=1). Flap loss was not observed. Complications occurred in four of the patients; include a partial graft loss, a wound dehiscence, seroma, and an unsatisfactory esthetic result.

Conclusion: Free tissue transfers rather than local flaps should be opted to reconstruct complex scalp defects, as failure of the latter, could create much greater defects, and worse consequences. There are many options for proper reconstruction, and it is essential to select the appropriate one, taking into account the comorbid conditions of each case.

Keywords: Free flaps; microsurgery; reconstruction; scalp.