Background and objectives: We report our results of a selective approach to primary direct appositional vaginal repair versus transverse rectus abdominis flap repair (TRAM) in patients with extensive rectal/anal cancer or in cases with primary cancer of cervix, vagina or vulva involving the anal canal and anal sphincters. Methods: Eighteen female patients (mean age: 62.9 years; range: 44-81 years) with a median follow-up of 14 months (range: 2-36 months) undergoing extended abdominoperineal reconstruction with total mesorectal excision between May 2002 and September 2005, were studied. Results: Twelve patients underwent an extended abdominoperineal resection with hysterectomy and vaginectomy, with 6 patients undergoing primary TRAM flap reconstruction following pelvic exenteration. Exenterative procedures were performed in 2 cases of primary vaginal cancer, following Wertheim hysterectomy for carcinoma of the cervix with recurrence after radiation and in 2 further cases of anal cancer with extensive pelvic recurrence after primary chemoradiation. Fifteen cases are alive on follow-up with no evidence of disease; 2 patients who had recurrent carcinoma of the cervix and who underwent TRAM flap reconstruction, have recurrent disease after 5 and 6 months of follow-up, respectively. Discussion: Our experience shows that careful primary closure of an extended abdominoperineal resection wound is effective and safe. Our one case of wound breakdown after primary repair underwent external beam and intracavitary irradiation primarily with wound breakdown of a primary repair followed by a delayed pedicled graciloplasty. TRAM flap reconstruction has been reserved in our unit for patients undergoing total pelvic extenteration. In general, we would recommend the use of TRAM flap reconstruction in younger sexually active patients where there has been external irradiation combined with brachytherapy.
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