High-voltage electrical burns of the upper extremity are often limb threatening. Typically, emergency fasciotomies are followed by serial debridements until only viable tissue remains. After debridement, flap coverage is required to preserve viable but exposed tendons, nerves, vessels, bones, and joints and to salvage these seriously injured upper extremities. Flap options are generally limited to large pedicle flaps or free tissue transfer. Despite the array of flaps available, surgical options become limited when upper extremity injuries are extensive or the initial flap fails. The most commonly used pedicle flap, the groin flap, may not provide adequate soft tissue coverage in these cases. In addition, free tissue transfer can be difficult due, in part, to the uncertainty in determining the complete zone of injury and whether the flap recipient vessels are suitable for the transfer.An ideal flap for coverage would be relatively thin and pliable; have a constant, reliable pedicle; and be large enough to cover wounds of significant size. Few surgeons have experience with the pedicled tensor fascia lata (TFL) flap for upper extremity coverage. The authors demonstrate its use in the salvage of extensive upper extremity injuries on three limbs in two patients. We believe that this flap offers a distinct advantage compared with the groin flap when pedicled flap coverage of the upper extremity is required.Patient 1: A 23-year-old man sustained severe electrical burns to his right upper extremity. After serial debridements, a pedicled TFL myocutaneous flap was used to provide soft tissue coverage of this extensive injury. The flap was delayed at 2 weeks and inset at 3 weeks. There was complete survival of the flap, leading to salvage of the extremity.Patient 2: A 27-year-old man sustained bilateral upper extremity electrical burns. Initial free tissue transfers to both arms were unsuccessful. The patient subsequently underwent simultaneous bilateral pedicled TFL myocutaneous flaps. Both flaps were delayed at 2 weeks and divided at 3 weeks. There was complete flap survival bilaterally, leading to salvage of both upper extremities.Limb salvage in severe upper extremity electrical injuries is difficult even in the best circumstances. Dependable flap coverage is mandatory to prevent infection and avoid the need for early or late amputation. The pedicled TFL flap in our series of patients has served to be a dependable flap in these severe upper extremity injuries and should be added to the surgical armamentarium of those caring for these difficult surgical problems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine