Autologous tissue microsurgical breast reconstruction is increasingly requested by women following mastectomy. While the abdomen is the most frequently used donor site, not all women have enough abdominal tissue excess for a unilateral or bilateral breast reconstruction. A secondary choice in such women may be the transverse upper gracilis (TUG) myocutaneous flap. This study reviews our experience with TUG flap breast reconstruction looking specifically at reconstructive success rate and the requirement for secondary surgery. A total of 16 free TUG flaps were performed to reconstruct 15 breasts in eight patients over a period of five years. Data were collected retrospectively by chart review. Follow up ranged from 14 to 41 months. During the follow up period, there was one (6.3%) complete flap loss in an immediate breast reconstruction patient. Four further flaps (25%) failed in their primary aim of breast reconstruction, as they required additional significant reconstruction with either deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flaps (two flaps (12.5%), one patient) or augmentation with silicone breast implants (two flaps (12.5%), one patient), giving a successful breast reconstruction rate with the TUG flap of only 66.7%. In all of the remaining reconstructed breasts, deficient flap volume or breast contour was seen. Eight flaps were augmented by lipofilling. A total of 62.5% of the donor sites had complications, namely sensory disturbance of the medial thigh (25%) and poor scar (37.5%) requiring revision. This series demonstrates a high rate of reconstructive failure and unsatisfactory outcomes from TUG flap breast reconstruction. We feel this reinforces the necessity of adequate pre-operative patient assessment and counselling, including discussion regarding the likelihood of subsequent revisional surgery, before embarking on this form of autologous breast reconstruction.

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Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery
Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Locke, M.B, Zhong, T, Mureau, M.A.M, & Hofer, S.O.P. (2012). Tug 'O' war: Challenges of transverse upper gracilis (TUG) myocutaneous free flap breast reconstruction. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, 65(8), 1041–1050. doi:10.1016/j.bjps.2012.02.020