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Medical College Pakistan; Orthopaedic Surgery; School of Nursing and Midwifery, Pakistan


Background: Reconstruction of soft tissue defects around the lower leg, foot and ankle is a challenge for orthopedic surgeons. These defects commonly occur as a result of trauma, infection and tumor excision. Sural artery neurovascular island flap is a relatively thin, pliable and insensate flap with minimum donor-site morbidity and acceptable aesthetic outcome.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of a case series was conducted, all operated by a single surgeon over a period of 25 years from July 1996 to February 2020. Data were collected through a structured proforma; the variables included were as follows: demographic data, mechanism of injury, defect site and size, size of flap, hospital stay, complications, outcome of flap and functional status of limb. Data analysis was performed by using SPSS version 25.0.
Results: We included 89 patients out of 106, with 92 distally based sural artery flaps. The flap coverage was divided in two groups: group I for leg (n=41) and group II for foot (n=51). The mean flap dimension in leg was 9.98 ± 2.2 cm and 12.15 ± 3 cm in foot. Postoperatively functional outcomes were assessed using a self-designed tool and graded as excellent in 79 cases (leg=38; foot=41), good in 10 cases (leg=2; foot=8), fair in 3 cases (leg=1; foot=2) and poor in zero cases. All flaps survived uneventfully.
Conclusion: The reverse sural artery flap is versatile and reliable, and can be performed easily with good knowledge and using a microsurgical technique. It is useful for the reconstruction of soft tissue defects around the lower third of the leg, dorsum of the foot, malleoli and hind foot. The functional range of motion of the ankle is not compromised because of the flap's supple and pliable nature. The reverse sural artery flap is ideal for the coverage of the foot, ankle and lower one third of the leg. This flap is insensate and not suitable for the weight-bearing area of the heel.


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