The vascular supply of the tensor fasciae latae flap and of the lateral thigh skin was studied in 10 cadavers to evaluate whether the lateral thigh skin toward the knee could be incorporated into an extended tensor fasciae latae flap. Within each cadaver, vascular injection of radiopaque material preceded flap elevation in one limb and followed flap elevation in the contralateral limb. Flaps raised after vascular injection were examined radiographically to evaluate the vascular anatomy of the lateral thigh skin independent of flap elevation. When vascular injection was made into the profunda femoris, the upper two-thirds of the flaps was better visualized than the distal third. When the injection was made into the popliteal artery, the vasculature of the distal third of the flaps was better visualized. Flaps raised before vascular injection were examined radiographically to delineate the anatomical territory of the vascular pedicle that had been injected. In these flaps, consistent cutaneous vascular supply was only seen in the skin overlying the tensor fasciae latae muscle, confirming that musculocutaneous perforators are the predominant means by which the pedicle of the tensor fasciae latae flap supplies the skin of the lateral thigh. Extended tensor fasciae latae flaps were elevated bilaterally in one cadaver, and selective methylene blue injections were made into the lateral circumflex femoral artery on one side and into the superior lateral genicular artery on the contralateral side. Methylene blue was observed in the proximal and distal thirds of the skin paddles, respectively, leaving unstained midzones. The vascular network of the lateral thigh skin could be divided into three zones. The lateral circumflex femoral artery and the third perforating branches of the profunda femoris artery perfuse the proximal and middle zones of the lateral thigh skin, respectively. The superior lateral genicular artery branch of the popliteal artery perfuses the distal zone. The middle and distal zones meet 8 to 10 cm above the knee joint, where the skin paddle of the tensor fasciae latae flap becomes unreliable. These data indicate that if the aim is to incorporate the skin over the distal thigh in an extended tensor fasciae latae flap without resorting to free-tissue transfer, then either a carefully planned delay procedure or an additional anastomosis to the superior lateral genicular artery is required.
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