The rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap: Modifications, complications, and sexual function

Harriet O. Smith, Mark C. Genesen, Carolyn D. Runowicz, Gary L. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Vaginal, perineal, and pelvic floor reconstruction is being performed with increasing frequency in conjunction with radical pelvic surgery. Although the vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap is ideally suited to such procedures, little information exists regarding risks or complications associated, with it. METHODS. A chart review of all patients who underwent this procedure at two institutions was performed, and the results were compared with existing series. Surviving patients were asked to describe their satisfaction with the procedure and their sexual function. RESULTS. Between 1990 and 1997, 22 patients underwent placement of a rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap for vaginal/pelvic floor reconstruction, 21 (95.5%) at the time of pelvic exenteration. Attachment of the graft was complete in 20 patients (90.9 %) and partial in 1 (4.5%), and 1 patient experienced complete loss that resulted in total vaginal stenosis. Four patients (18.2%) developed mild vaginal stenosis that was corrected with dilators. Donor site complications included wound separation (above the fascia) in three patients and one delayed abdominal closure. There were no cases of bowel obstruction, dehiscence, hernia, or death. The only statistically significant identifiable risk factors for graft necrosis included prior abdominal surgery and operative time. Thirteen of 22 (59.1%) of the patients are cancer free (median progression free interval, 42.2 months), 11 (84.6 %) of whom reported having had vaginal intercourse since surgery. CONCLUSIONS. The rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap can be safely used with excellent results and acceptable morbidity, and in this series it restored sexual function in the majority of cancer survivors. Because previous abdominal surgery (transverse incisions or colostomy) may compromise blood supply to the flap, alternative sites should be considered in such cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-520
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 1998


  • Neovagina
  • Pelvic exenteration
  • Rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap
  • Sexual function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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