Plastic surgery in irradiated areas: analysis of 200 consecutive cases

Eur J Surg Oncol. 1997 Feb;23(1):48-53. doi: 10.1016/s0748-7983(97)80142-4.


Reconstructive surgery in previously irradiated areas is more difficult than in non-irradiated cases. A retrospective analysis of the outcome of 200 previously irradiated patients who had skin graft or flap reconstruction performed by the same surgeon is presented, and the most suitable surgical technique in irradiated areas is discussed. One hundred and fifty-six patients had skin and oral cavity cancer, and were operated on after local recurrence. Twenty patients had breast cancer; 15 were operated on for local recurrence and five for breast reconstruction. Twenty-four patients had soft tissue sarcomas. Eighty-five patients had a skin graft (group 1), 35 had a skin flap (group 2), 10 had a fascia/muscle flap plus skin graft and 70 had a myocutaneous flap (group 3). Analysis of complications revealed statistically significant differences in terms of incomplete graft/flap necrosis between group 1 and 2 (P < 0.001) and groups 1 and 3 (P < 0.001), and in terms of infection between groups 1 and 3 (P < 0.01). We conclude that the method of reconstruction is determined by the characteristics of the defect such as size and localization; the quality, fractionation, total dose, and energy of radiation used; skin and subcutaneous tissue changes due to radiation; and operation time. However, it is reasonable to choose fascia/muscle or myocutaneous flaps for reconstruction in previously irradiated areas. These methods are more resistant to bacterial inoculation, more prone to clean residual infection, and provide better vascularized tissue and volume replacement for contour defects.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necrosis
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Skin Transplantation*
  • Surgical Flaps* / methods
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology