Using the gracilis muscle flap

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Muscle flaps have come to play an invaluable role in the management of complex groin wounds (Figure 1). We have found that the gracilis muscle offers significant advantages over other local muscle flaps. In comparison to the segmental blood supply of the sartorius muscle which can be disrupted during mobilization, the gracilis muscle has a single vascular pedicle that arises reliably from the medial femoral circumflex vessels. Unlike the sartorius muscle which may be damaged by the infectious/inflammatory process in the groin, the gracilis muscle is remote from the groin wound itself. In addition, the procedure is relatively simple and can be completed in less than thirty minutes.

Figure 1: These images detail the process of using the gracilis muscle for complex groin wounds as done by Dr. John F. Eidt and Dr. Ahsan Ali at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The procedure is performed with the patient in the supine position with the knee slightly flexed. The gracilis muscle can be palpated along the medial aspect of the thigh and the longitudinal incision is placed directly over the muscle . After the deep fascia is divided, the muscle can be easily freed from surrounding attachments (Figure 2). We completely mobilize the distal two-thirds of the muscle and divide it at the musculotendinous insertion on the femur. We do not mobilize the proximal one-third of the muscle to avoid injury to the vascular pedicle). The muscle is retroflexed into the groin wound using a ringed-forceps. The muscle provides excellent coverage of the femoral triangle. A vacuum dressing may be applied without concern for injury to the femoral vessels.

We used the gracilis flap to treat complex groin wounds in 68 limbs in 64 patients at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock. Complete healing was achieved in 91%. In six patients (9%), recurrent or persistent infection led to bleeding that required surgical management. Limb salvage was achieved in 86%.

Figure 2: Muscle flaps can be invaluable in managing complex groin wounds.

The presence of autogenous vascular reconstruction was associated with a reduced risk of persistent/recurrent infection in comparison to synthetic grafts (2.3% vs 23.8%, P = .006). Age greater than 75 years was associated with worse outcomes overall. Wound problems (infection, hematoma, seroma) at the harvest site were rare.

We prefer the gracilis flap to the sartorius or other groin muscle flaps in the management of complex groin wounds. The procedure is simple enough for a vascular surgeon, the muscle is reliable in location and blood supply, and the results are satisfactory given the complexity of the problem.

Dr. Eidt is at Greenville Health System, University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, and Dr. Ali is at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock.

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