Reconstruction of Complex Oncologic Chest Wall Defects: A 10-Year Experience

Raymond R. Chang, Babak J. Mehrara, Qun Ying Hu, Joseph J. Disa, Peter G. Cordeiro, Donald Mackay, Joseph M. Serletti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


The repair of complex chest wall defects presents a challenging problem for the reconstructive surgeon. Although the majority of such defects could be repaired with the use of local and regional musculocutaneous flaps, more complicated cases require increasingly sophisticated reconstructive techniques. This study reviews the experience at a single cancer center with chest wall reconstruction over a decade. A retrospective review was undertaken for each patient who underwent chest wall reconstruction from 1992 to 2002. Patient demographics and variables, including pathologic diagnosis, extent of resection, size of defect, method of reconstruction, and outcome were evaluated. There was a total of 113 patients, 88 females and 25 males. The average age was 58 years (range, 19-88 years). The most common diagnoses were breast cancer and sarcoma. The average area of the chest wall defect after resection was 266 cm2. One hundred fifty-seven musculocutaneous or muscle flaps were performed for reconstruction of the chest wall. Eleven percent of patients underwent reconstruction with autologous free tissue transfer. One hundred six patients underwent a single operation. Seven patients required a second operation for salvage of a complication. In 19 cases (15%), more than 1 flap was used simultaneously to complete the reconstruction. Eighty-four percent of the patients achieved stable chest wall reconstruction with no complications. Seven patients (4%) had partial (> 10%) flap loss. The most common remaining postoperative complications were delayed wound healing (3% of patients), infection (2.5%), and hematoma (2.5%). Immediate chest wall reconstruction is safe, reliable, and can most often be accomplished with 1 operation. A variety of flaps, both single and in combination, could be used to achieve definitive coverage of the chest wall after extirpative surgery. The reconstructive choice is dependent on factors such as size of the defect, location on the chest wall, arc of rotation of the flap, and availability of recipient vessels. Based on this single institutional experience over a decade, an algorithm to chest wall reconstruction is provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-479
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery


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