Long-term clinical and patient-reported outcomes in free flap reconstruction of the weight-bearing heel pad and non-weight-bearing Achilles tendon regions

Jennifer N. Grauberger, Waleed O. Gibreel, Steven L. Moran, Brian T. Carlsen, Karim Bakri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The non-weight-bearing (NWB) Achilles tendon and weight-bearing (WB) heel pad regions are technically challenging to reconstruct with distinct functional and aesthetic considerations that have not been previously considered in the literature. This study is the first to characterize the long-term clinical and patient-reported outcomes of these components to better inform patients about the postreconstruction period. Methods: A retrospective review of medical records and phone-based survey of adult patients who underwent free flap reconstruction of the heel/ankle with 6-month minimum clinical follow-up was performed. Results: Forty-three patients, with 31 (72.1%) NWB and 12 (27.9%) WB defects, treated from January 1, 2000 to February 28, 2017 were included. Muscle flaps were more common than fasciocutaneous flaps (N = 36 [83.7%] vs. 7 [16.3%]). Flap survival rate was 95.3% and limb salvage rate was 93.0% at median follow-up of 12.0 months (interquartile range [IQR] 6.2, 25.5). Flap ulceration occurred more frequently in the WB region (41.7 vs. 6.5%, p =.0123). The survey response rate was 63.6%. The majority of patients complete daily tasks with no/little impairment (76.2%), walk half a mile or more (85.7%), returned to work (86.6%), and fit shoes “fair” or “well” (71.4%). Most patients were “very satisfied” with heel/ankle function (71.4%) and would “very likely” undergo the same procedure if needed (76.2%). Conclusions: Free flap reconstruction in both the NWB Achilles tendon and WB heel pad has excellent limb salvage and flap survival rates. Patients were satisfied with heel/ankle function, but additional counseling is recommended for variance in appearance and higher ulceration rates in WB defects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-845
Number of pages11
JournalMicrosurgery
Volume40
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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