Radial forearm free flap morbidity: A rare case of a normal preoperative arteriogram and acute intraoperative hand ischemia
TW Bruner | MM Hanasono | RJ Skoracki
Since its first description in 1981, the radial forearm free flap has become a valuable tool for reconstructive microsurgery. However, there are potential complications associated with the flap - the most feared being hand ischemia from sacrifice of the radial artery. Fortunately, acute ischemic complications are exceedingly rare, with only two cases reported in the literature. Options for preoperative evaluation of the donor extremity include the Allen's test, ultrasonography and angiography. A preoperative arteriogram is considered to be the definitive method to evaluate arterial anatomy, patency, and collateralization between the radial and ulnar arteries. The current article presents the authors' experience with a patient who had a delayed Allen's test and a normal arteriogram of his left upper extremity, and who developed acute intraoperative hand ischemia, requiring reconstruction of his radial artery, after elevation of a radial forearm free flap. Although exceedingly rare, the occurrence of acute vascular insufficiency is always a possibility and must be kept in mind when harvesting a radial forearm free flap. The surgeon should be prepared to perform an interposition vein graft reconstruction to avoid any potential complications. Clinical examination and judgment may be more important than radiological studies in certain cases.