Flap coverage for necrotising soft tissue infections: A systematic review.

Affiliation

Somasundaram J(1), Wallace DL(1), Cartotto R(1), Rogers AD(2).
Author information:
(1)Ross Tilley Burn Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada; Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
(2)Ross Tilley Burn Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada; Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Necrotising soft tissue infections (NSTI) are destructive and often life-threatening infections of the skin and soft tissue, necessitating prompt recognition and aggressive medical and surgical treatment. After debridement, the aim of surgical closure and reconstruction is to minimize disability and optimize appearance. Although skin grafting may fulfil this role, techniques higher on the reconstructive ladder, including local, regional and free flaps, are sometimes undertaken. This systematic review sought to determine the circumstances when this is true, which flaps were most commonly employed, and for which anatomical areas. METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was conducted utilising electronic databases (Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library). Full text studies of flaps used for the management of NSTI's (including Necrotising Fasciitis and Fournier Gangrene) were included. The web-based program 'Covidence' facilitated storage of references and data management. Data obtained in the search included reference details (journal, date and title), the study design, the purpose of the study, the study findings, number of patients with NSTI included, the anatomical areas of NSTI involved, the types of flaps used, and the complication rate. RESULTS: After screening 4555 references, 501 full text manuscripts were assessed for eligibility after duplicates and irrelevant studies were excluded. 230 full text manuscripts discussed the use of 888 flap closures in the context of NSTI in 733 patients; the majority of these were case series published in the last 20 years in a large variety of journals. Reconstruction of the perineum following Fournier's gangrene accounted for the majority of the reported flaps (58.6%). Free flaps were used infrequently (8%), whereas loco-regional muscle flaps (18%) and loco-regional fasciocutaneous flaps (71%) were employed more often. The reported rate of partial or complete flap loss was 3.3%. CONCLUSION: Complex skin and soft tissue defects from NSTIs, not amenable to skin grafting, can be more effectively and durably covered using a spectrum of flaps. This systematic review highlights the important contribution that the plastic surgeon makes as an integral member of multidisciplinary teams managing these patients.