Reconstruction of open wounds as a complication of spinal surgery with flaps: A systematic review

Lee Onn Chieng, Zachary Hubbard, Christopher J. Salgado, Allan D. Levi, Harvey Chim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Obje ct A systematic review of the available evidence on the prophylactic and therapeutic use of flaps for the coverage of complex spinal soft-tissue defects was performed to determine if the use of flaps reduces postoperative complications and improves patient outcomes. Met hods A PubMed database search was performed to identify English-language articles published between 1990 and 2014 that contained the following phrases to describe postoperative wounds ("wound," "complex back wound," "postoperative wound," "spine surgery") and intervention ("flap closure," "flap coverage," "soft tissue reconstruction," "muscle flap"). Results In total, 532 articles were reviewed with 17 articles meeting the inclusion criteria of this study. The risk factors from the pooled analysis of 262 patients for the development of postoperative complex back wounds that necessitated muscle flap coverage included the involvement of instrumentation (77.6%), a previous history of radiotherapy (33.2%), smoking (20.6%), and diabetes mellitus (17.2%). In patients with instrumentation, prophylactic coverage of the wound with a well-vascularized flap was shown to result in a lower incidence of wound complications. One study showed a statistically significant decrease in complications compared with patients where prophylactic coverage was not performed (20% vs 45%). The indications for flap coverage after onset of wound complications included hardware exposure, wound infection, dehiscence, seroma, and hematoma. Flap coverage was shown to decrease the number of surgical debridements needed and also salvage hardware, with the rate of hardware removal after flap coverage ranging from 0% to 41.9% in 4 studies. Con clusion s Prophylactic coverage with flaps in high-risk patients undergoing spine surgery reduces complications, while therapeutic coverage following wound complications allows the salvage of hardware in the majority of patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE17
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015


  • Back flaps
  • Complications of spinal surgery
  • Spine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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