Anterior Cervical and Lateral Cervical Apron Skin Flaps

Anterior Cervical and Lateral Cervical Apron Skin Flaps


Following World War II, the need for a method of immediate reconstruction of the lining of the oral cavity following surgical resection of large malignant tumors stimulated the design of a variety of new pedicle skin flaps about the head and neck (1, 2, 3). One of the most useful of these new regional flaps proved to be the cervical apron flap. Even in the 1990s this method offers certain advantages over the use of free flaps in cancer reconstruction.


The circulation to the flap is highly reliable in the absence of preoperative intensive radiation therapy to that portion of the neck. The blood supply of this flap is so vigorous that it has proved to be one of the few regional flaps in the head and neck region that will support an immediate free bone graft to a defect in the mandible—providing a high probability of bone graft osteosynthesis. Pedicle flaps of less vigor, such as those from the chest or shoulders, often are associated with slow bone graft absorption when used to cover an immediate bone graft. Although this is treated as a random pedicle flap, it does in fact receive descending branches from the labial vessels and from vessels reaching the flap from each lower cheek region.

In most instances, the flap is elevated so that it includes the platysma muscle underlying the entire apron flap. This muscle provides a vigorous layer of blood vessels to nourish the flap, analogous to the additional circulation provided through the deep fascia in modern fasciocutaneous flaps.


This flap must be planned from the outset of treatment because it is not possible to use it once a neck dissection has been performed through the usual neck incisions. It is a flap that should be used with caution even in a nonoperated neck if that patient’s neck has been exposed to a heavy dose of preoperative radiation.

Certain anatomic points need to be considered in the design and planning of an apron cervical flap. In female patients, the absence of hair-bearing skin in the neck gives one the latitude to design the flap so that the apron lies at a somewhat higher level on the neck than in male patients. With men, that portion of the flap destined for permanent intraoral replacement should be marked carefully to lie inferior to the normal beard line in the lower neck (Figs. 190.1 and 190.2). The width of the expected lining defect within the oral cavity should be estimated carefully. The width of the apron part of the flap need not exceed that measurement.

There is essentially no limit to the width of this flap. The pedicle will easily carry sufficient non-hair-bearing skin from the lower neck to replace the entire width of the anterior oral cavity. I have moved flaps with aprons up to 14 cm wide and 10 cm long. It is unusual to require this much flap tissue for oral cavity repair.

FIGURE 190.1 In the first stage, a primary cancer of the right floor of the mouth was removed in continuity with a right radical neck dissection. The contents of the deep neck were exposed by the design and shape of the apron flap. The lower part of this flap, or the “apron,” must be raised from a part of the neck below the hairline in men. In most instances, the chin and lower lip-splitting incision used here for exposure is unnecessary. I currently extend this medial incision at the hyoid level toward the mastoid process on the contralateral side. A deliberate dart is created along the anterior border of the skin graft to avoid any later linear contracture.

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Jun 26, 2016 | Posted by in General Surgery | Comments Off on Anterior Cervical and Lateral Cervical Apron Skin Flaps

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