• Vol. 33 No. 5, 662–666
  • 15 September 2004

Flap Prefabrication – The Bridge Between Conventional Flaps and Tissue-engineered Flaps

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ABSTRACT

Flap prefabrication is one of the most exciting areas in Plastic Surgery because of its bridging role between conventional reconstructive surgery and tissue engineering. Using this technique, tissues such as bone, cartilage, skin and muscle can be preassembled to form precise composites that will fit any defect. In pre-lamination, for example, an ear may be created by burying cartilage underneath forearm skin and later harvested as a skin-cartilage composite free flap to replace the missing part. Vascular induction is yet another means of customising flaps where new blood supply is introduced to create transplantable tissue. For example, bone chips wrapped in a vascular carrier such as muscle can become vascularised grafts. Our experiment describes jejunal prefabrication in a rat model using the same technique. Intestinal segments wrapped in muscle flaps become independent of their mesenteric blood supply by “parasitising” on the muscle’s blood supply. This idea arose from our initial observations that intestinal segments transferred to the neck to reconstruct the oesophagus could survive accidental disruption of the pedicle if sufficient time had elapsed. Clearly, the bowel had picked up new blood supply from its bed. Subsequently, jejunal prefabrication was used to reconstruct the oesophagus in a patient in whom there were no recipient vessels for free jejunal transfer. The pedicled latissimus dorsi muscle flap was used as a carrier for the jejunum. Another application of this idea could be in the area of allogeneic trachea or pancreatic transplantation, since present-day techniques have yet to overcome problems such as insufficient vascularity and unpredictable transplant survival. Future applications incorporating biomaterials and cultured cells will usher in the era of tissue- engineered flaps.


Flap prefabrication is one of the most exciting areas in Plastic Surgery because of its bridging role between conventional reconstructive surgery and tissue engineering. Using this technique, tissues such as bone, cartilage, skin and muscle can be pre-assembled to form precise composites that will fit any defect.

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