The authors examined donor-site complications and morbidity in 37 patients after reconstruction with free or pedicled anterolateral thigh flaps. Intraoperative assessment included damage to the vastus lateralis muscle and whether the main pedicle of the rectus femoris muscle had been killed. Postoperative assessment of the donor site included wound healing, range of motion, muscle strength, gait, and sensation. Patients were surveyed with a questionnaire about fatigue in their activities of daily life and the appearance of the donor site. All 32 patients who underwent primary skin closure could perform activities of daily life normally, and most (87.5 percent) reported that donor-site appearance was satisfactory. However, the severity of donor-site dysfunction was related to the degree of damage to the vastus lateralis muscle, and most patients (87.5 percent) had some loss of sensation at the anterolateral aspect of the thigh. Because of adhesions between the meshed skin graft and the underlying fascia, range of motion at the hip and knee was limited in significantly more patients who had received split-thickness skin grafts (60 percent) than patients who had undergone primary skin closure (3.1 percent). Therefore, wider flaps or flaps harvested nearer the knee may increase donor-site morbidity. The authors concluded that the incidence of long-term morbidity with the anterolateral thigh flap is low, although it is increased when the flap includes the vastus lateralis muscle or is wider and requires additional skin grafting at the donor site.
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