The deep inferior epigastric artery perforated rectus abdominis (DIEAP-ra) free flap is a modification of the classic myocutaneous DIEA free flap in which only fasciocutaneous tissue is harvested based on the paraumbilical perforators of the medial row. The aim of this retrospective study is to describe our experience with this reconstructive technique in head and neck surgery. Between 2004 and 2009, 24 patients affected by oncologic maxillofacial, skull base, oral, and oropharyngeal defects were submitted to reconstruction with DIEAP-ra. After harvesting the DIEAP-ra, the longitudinally split muscular belly was sutured and the anterior rectus sheath closed with a nonabsorbable mattress suture without inlay mesh interposition. Surgical defects encompassed half of the hard palate in ten patients, orbit and part of the cranial vault in one, radical extended parotidectomy in four, subtotal glossectomy in seven, and total glossectomy in two cases. The only complete flap necrosis (4%) developed as a consequence of an orocutaneous fistula and required a second latissimus dorsi free flap. Another case (4%) developed a partial necrosis for oropharyngeal fistula after total glossectomy that healed after transposition of a pedicled myofascial pectoralis major. Two patients (8%) presented a minor salivary fistula that healed by medication alone. No major complication of the donor site was observed. DIEAP-ra is a valid alternative to the DIEA free flap when applied to complex maxillofacial or tongue major defects. Its greatest advantages are the reduced donor site morbidity and a more adjustable thickness of the skin paddle, particularly in females and obese patients.
Rectus abdominisFree flapPerforated flapHead and neck reconstructionSkull baseGlossectomy