Twenty-Five Years of Experience with the Submental Flap in Facial Reconstruction: Evolution and Technical Refinements following 311 Cases in Europe and Africa

The submental flap is a pedicled island flap with excellent color match for facial reconstruction. The flap can be raised with muscle, submandibular gland, or bone and can be transposed to reach defects up to two-thirds of the face. The authors report the primary author’s (D.M.) experience of 25 years using the submental flap from its original description to most recent technical evolutions in both Europe and Africa.
This is a retrospective study including all patients with facial defects who underwent reconstruction using a submental flap between 1991 and 2016. This study included the use of all four variations of the submental flap: platysmal, digastric, extended, and superextended. The authors report technical adaptations and complications encountered.
The authors performed 311 facial reconstructions using submental flaps: 32 platysmal, 133 digastric, 91 extended, and 45 superextended variations. In conjunction with these reconstructions, the authors performed 10 osteocutaneous submental flaps and two free flaps. The authors report two cases of total flap necrosis (0.6 percent) and 28 minor complications, including 23 cases of distal skin necrosis (7 percent), one reversible mandibular facial nerve palsy (0.3 percent), and three hematomas (1 percent).
The submental flap has proven to be a reliable flap for head and neck reconstruction. The four technical modifications described use varying amounts of soft tissue to replace tissue lost and can include vascularized bone from the mandibular margin. This flap exemplifies Gillies’ principle of “replacing like with like” and should be discussed as an alternative to free tissue transfer in facial reconstruction, especially in settings where resources are limited.
Therapeutic, IV.

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