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Rectus abdominis myocutaneous flaps for neovaginal reconstruction after radical pelvic surgery
  1. J. T. Soper,
  2. L. J. Havrilesky,
  3. A. A. Secord,
  4. A. Berchuck and
  5. D. L. Clarke-Pearson
  1. Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to: J.T. Soper, MD, Box 3079, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA. Email: soper001{at}


The objective of this article is to compare the flap-specific complications associated with vertical (VRAM) and transverse (TRAM) rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap vaginal reconstructions performed during radical pelvic procedures. A retrospective chart review was performed to identify all patients who underwent VRAM and TRAM neovaginal reconstructions performed on the Gynecologic Oncology Service at Duke University Medical Center. Flap-specific complications were compared between the two techniques. From 1988 to 2003, 14 VRAM and 18 TRAM flap neovaginal reconstructions were performed on 32 women during the course of 22 (68%) total pelvic exenterations, 8 (25%) partial exenterations, and 2 (6%) radical vulvovaginectomies. Twenty-eight (88%) patients had been previously treated with radiation therapy or concurrent chemoradiation. Associated procedures included continent urinary conduit in 21 (66%), rectosigmoid reanastomosis in 8 (25%), and intraoperative or postoperative sidewall radiation therapy in 7 (22%) of patients. Overall median survival was 14 months (range: 2-week postoperative death to 65 months), with two (6%) acute postoperative mortalities. Fifteen flap-specific complications occurred in 12 (38%) patients, with no significant differences in flap type. Abdominal wound complications included four (12%) superficial wound separations, while one (3%) patient had a fascial dehiscence associated with complex fistulas that contributed to her death, but no patient developed incisional hernia. One patient each developed >50% flap loss after TRAM and <50% flap loss after VRAM flap, respectively. Four (12%) patients developed vaginal stricture or stenosis, two (6%) required percutaneous drainage of pelvic abscess or hematoma, and two (6%) developed rectovaginal fistula. Univariate analysis revealed a trend for increasing flap loss with body mass index >35 (P = 0.056, Fisher exact two-tailed test), but there were no significant associations with other patient characteristics or flap-specific complications. Thirteen (62%) of 21 patients who survived >12 months reported coitus. Both VRAM and TRAM are reliable techniques for neovaginal reconstructions after radical pelvic surgery and have a similar distribution of flap-specific complications involving the donor and recipient sites.

  • neovagina
  • pelvic reconstruction
  • rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap
  • vaginal reconstruction

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