Reconstruction of Contractures: Z-Plasty, Skin Grafting, and Flaps

Reconstruction of Contractures: Z-Plasty, Skin Grafting, and Flaps

Xiangxia Liu


  • The scar contractures in the lower extremities usually only affect the superficial fascia layer. Sometimes there will be exposed bone, tendons, nerves, and vessels after scar resection or revision.

  • Lateral femoral circumflex artery (LFCA) arises from the deep femoral artery; it goes deep to the rectus femoris muscle and divides into three branches: the ascending, transverse, and descending branch. The Anterolateral thigh flap (ALT) is designed base on the perforator of the descending branch of LFCA (FIG 1A).

  • Pedicled reverse-flow ALT flap is a useful tool to repair the defects around the knee joint. The descending branch of LFCA will communicate with the arteries around the knee joint, which perfuses the pedicled reverse-flow ALT flap (FIG 1B).

  • Perforator flaps based on the peroneal artery or posterior tibial artery (FIG 1C) are powerful tools to repair the defects around the ankle joint and the heel (FIG 1D).


  • Patient history and physical examinations will help us to determine whether a simple Z-plasty can release the contracture or skin grafting or a flap is needed (FIG 2).

FIG 1A. Arising from the produnda femoral trunk, the lateral circumflex femoral artery (LCFA) gives three branches: ascending, transverse, and descending branch. The descending branch of LCFA travels deep with the space between the rectus femoris muscle and the vastus lateralis muscle. As traveling distally, it distributes the perforators, in most cases musculocutaneous perforators to the flap. B. The distal communicating artery between the descending branch of LFCA and the lateral superior geniculate artery is the anatomic basis for the reversed ALT flap.

FIG 1 (Continued)C. Through its course in the leg, the posterior tibial artery usually gives two to four major septocutaneous perforators; these perforators arise from between the soleus and the flexor digitorum longus muscle or between the flexor digitorum longus muscle and the medial aspect of tibial bone. The distance between the lowest perforator and the medial malleolus ranges from 3.5 to 8.2 cm.1 D. The perforators of peroneal/fibular artery arise from between the soleus and the peroneus longus/brevis muscle. They are usually located within 2 cm from posterior border of fibular bone and are closer to the fibular bone proximally than distally.


  • Preoperative radiography can help to distinguish simple and complex scar contracture, especially if an underlying skeletal abnormality is suspected.

  • CT and MRI scanning play an important role in the evaluation of skin cancer.

    • An MRI can well identify the relationship among the tumor, calcaneus bone, and Achilles tendon in the case of Marjolin ulcer, an aggressive squamous cell carcinoma presenting in an area of chronic inflammatory scar tissue (FIG 3).


Preoperative Planning

  • Prepare the donor site for skin grafting.

  • Use Doppler ultrasonography to confirm the perforator before the operation.

  • Pathological study of the chronic ulcer in the scar area before the surgery is important.


  • The patient is placed supine on the operating room table with the entire lower extremity prepared into the field.

  • The ipsilateral or contralateral thigh is prepared into the field in the event that a split-thickness skin graft is needed.

    • The scalp is another option for harvesting thin split-thickness skin grafts if the patients do not want to leave a visible scar on the donor site.

      FIG 2A. For a superficial nonhypertrophic scar on right arm with minimal contracture, the simple technique of Z-plasty will release the contracture scar and break the tension line. B. For this patient, skin grafting is needed to replace the unwanted hypertrophic scar on the dorsum of the right foot and to release the dorsal contracture of the second, third, and fourth toes. C. Both the Z-plasty and skin grafting are needed to fully release the contracture bands of the left ankle and foot.

      FIG 3A. Cauliflowerlike tumor on the right heel. B. MRI shows the tumor has a close relationship with the calcaneus bone and the Achilles tendon. A flap would be needed to cover this defect after tumor resection because there will be an exposure of both the bone and tendon.

    • The groin is prepared in the event that a full-thickness skin graft is needed.

  • A prone position will be helpful when the procedure is related to the posterior aspect of lower extremity.

  • A lateral decubitus position will facilitate the exploration of the perforator of peroneal artery.


  • Make the incision on the medial margin of ALT flap first as this will facilitate the exploration of perforators in the medial thigh in case that there is no perforator available in the lateral side.

Nov 24, 2019 | Posted by in Aesthetic plastic surgery | Comments Off on Reconstruction of Contractures: Z-Plasty, Skin Grafting, and Flaps
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