Background: Perineal wound complications after chemoradiotherapy and abdominoperineal resection (APR) for anorectal cancer occur in up to 60% of patients, including perineal abscess and wound dehiscence. Vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous (VRAM) flaps have been used in an attempt to reduce these complications by obliterating the noncollapsible dead space with vascularized tissue and closing the perineal skin defect with nonirradiated flap skin. Many surgeons are reluctant to use VRAM flaps unless primary closure is not possible. Study Design: All patients who underwent chemoradiotherapy and APR during a 12-year period at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center were retrospectively reviewed. Patient, tumor, and treatment characteristics and surgical complications and outcomes were compared between patients who underwent VRAM flap reconstruction of wounds that could have been closed primarily (flap group, n = 35) and those who had primary closure of the perineal wound (control group, n = 76). Results: Overall, there were no significant differences in the incidence of perineal wound complications between the groups; the flap group had a significantly lower incidence of perineal abscess (9% versus 37%, p = 0.002), major perineal wound dehiscence (9% versus 30%, p = 0.014), and drainage procedures required for perineal/pelvic fluid collections (3% versus 25%, p = 0.003) than the control group had. Despite flap harvest and the need for donor site closure in the flap group, there was no significant difference in abdominal wall complications between groups during the study's mean patient followup of 3.8 years. Conclusions: VRAM flap reconstruction of irradiated APR defects reduces major perineal wound complications without increasing early abdominal wall complications. Strong consideration should be given to immediate VRAM flap reconstruction after chemoradiation and APR.
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