Combined arterial reconstruction and free tissue transfer for limb salvage

W. J. McCarthy*, J. S. Matsumura, N. A. Fine, G. A. Dumanian, W. H. Pearce, J. Schuler, A. D. Shepard, J. J. Hurley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Purpose: Lower-extremity arterial anatomy that is insufficient for successful vein bypass grafting and major proximal foot wounds often lead to leg amputation in patients with severe ischemia. Free tissue transfer, which can provide limb salvage in these patients after arterial reconstruction, was studied. Methods: During a 45-month period, 21 patients who otherwise would have undergone leg amputation were treated with arterial bypass by means of vein grafting and free tissue transfer. Ages of the patients ranged from 40 to 73 years (average, 59 years); 18 of the 21 patients had diabetes mellitus; and all patients except one were men. Arterial reconstruction was performed from the femoral (nine of 21 patients) or popliteal artery (12 of 21 patients) to the posterior tibial (eight patients), dorsalis pedis (five patients), peroneal (three patients), popliteal (one patient), or anterior tibial artery (one patient), or directly to the free flap (three patients). The tissue transferred included latissimus dorsi (five patients), rectus abdominus (five patients), omentum (five patients), gracilis (two patients), radial forearm flaps (three patients), and a scapular flap (one patient). Foot defects were debrided, including the appropriate toe or transmetatarsal amputation, covered with the transferred flap, and then split-thickness skin grafted. Arterial flow for all flaps was through the vein grafts, with direct arterial anastomosis and with venous outflow through adjacent tibial veins. Results: All 21 procedures were successful initially, without operative mortality, but three failed within 4 weeks because of uncontrolled infection (two) or embolization from a remote site (one) and required below-knee amputation. Grafts remained patent in 18 procedures, and follow-up of this cohort ranged from 1 to 45 months (mean, 13.3 months). Two patients died, one after 4 months and one after 6 months, of unrelated illness; at the time of death, they had functioning grafts. The remaining 19 patients are alive. Of these, 15 have patent arterial grafts, all viable free flaps. Thus, limb salvage was accomplished in 18 of 21 (86%) patients who otherwise would have required below-knee amputation. Conclusion: Patients destined for leg amputation despite aggressive traditional arterial bypass grafting methods can achieve limb salvage with the additional technique of free tissue transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)814-820
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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