Free Lateral Forearm Flap in Head and Neck Reconstruction: An Attractive Alternative to the Radial Forearm Flap

John Shuck, Edward I. Chang, Alexander F. Mericli, Neil D. Gross, Matthew M. Hanasono, Patrick B. Garvey, Peirong Yu, Rene D. Largo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The lateral forearm flap-a thin, fasciocutaneous flap harvested over the lateral epicondyle based on the terminal anterior branch of the posterior radial collateral artery-is an attractive alternative to the radial forearm flap. The authors hypothesized that it is safe and effective for head and neck reconstruction. They conducted a retrospective review of all lateral forearm flap reconstructions performed between 2016 and 2018. Patient demographics, defect characteristics, adjuvant therapies, and postoperative complications were recorded. Swallowing and diet were assessed in patients undergoing intraoral reconstruction. The Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire was completed prospectively preoperatively and postoperatively. Flap and pedicle dimensions were recorded. Twenty-five lateral forearm flap reconstructions were performed; 23 were for intraoral defects. There were no partial or complete flap losses, one venous thrombosis, and one hematoma requiring reoperation. Preoperative and postoperative Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire scores were equivalent (p = 0.78). In the intraoral cohort, 22 patients (96 percent) resumed an oral diet following reconstruction. The average pedicle length was 11.8 cm (range, 9 to 16 cm); skin paddle length and width were 6.6 cm (range, 4 to 12 cm) and 4.7 cm (range, 4 to 12 cm), respectively; arterial diameter was 1.5 mm (range, 1.4 to 2.5 mm); and venous diameter was 2.8 mm (range, 2.4 to 3.6 mm). All donor sites were closed primarily; one superficial dehiscence was reported. In summary, the authors found that the free lateral forearm flap provided an excellent alternative to the radial forearm flap in head and neck reconstruction. It is a thin, pliable fasciocutaneous flap with excellent pedicle length, and the donor site can be closed primarily with minimal morbidity. CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:: Therapeutic, IV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446E-450E
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Forearm/surgery
  • Free Tissue Flaps
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms/surgery
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures/methods
  • Retrospective Studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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