The aim of this study was to test the ex vivo biomechanical properties of acutely expanded cutaneous flaps to quantitatively assess the efficacy of intraoperative tissue expansion. A total of 14 fresh male cadavers were used for the study. In each cadaver, a rectangular (15 x 8 cm), proximally based flap was designed on each side of the body, in three different locations: lateral arm, anterior thorax, anterior thigh. In each cadaver, one randomly selected flap per each body region underwent acute-intermittent expansion, whereas the contralateral flap served as control. The biomechanical properties (stress/strain ratio, mean stiffness) of both expanded and control flaps were then assessed by means of a dynamometer and a force-transducer. The obtained data showed that the biomechanical benefits provided by acute tissue expansion were statistically different (P <0.05) from those obtained by simple subcutaneous undermining. While no changes of length have been observed in the acutely expanded skin flaps as compared to control cutaneous flaps, a statistically significant gain in the compliance of the former has been recorded as compared to the biomechanical behaviour of the latter. (C) 2000 The British Association of Plastic Surgeons.
- Intraoperative tissue expansion
- Skin flap compliance
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