What does a (general and abdominal) surgeon need to know on plastic surgery?
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Background: Plastic surgery was first introduced as a sub-specialty of general surgery in Germany in 1978. Since then, this surgical subspecialty/discipline has evolved enormous potential, e.g. in collaboration with other disciplines such as general andabdominal surgery. Aim: To highlight and summarize the basic potential, technical options and novel aspects of plastic surgery, which are relevant for the common interdisciplinary surgical strategies of plastic and general as well as abdominal surgery in clinical practice. Method: Short and compact narrative review based on 1) a selection of relevant references from the medical scientific literature and 2) surgical experiences obtained in daily practice. R esults (selected corner points): 1) Biological protection procedures in vascular surgery by flap coverage after meticulous debridement with or without autogenic vascular reconstruction are used to overcome infection of a vascular prosthesis, a serious problem, associated with the risk of anastomotic rupture and bleeding by transfer of immunological competence due to tissue coverage and finally to induce healing in the area of an infected vascular prosthesis. 2) Fistula treatment for aorto-tracheal or aorto-duodenal fistulas, a big challenge for the referring general surgeon, can be treated by flap coverage, i.e. interposition of the pectoralis-major flap and the omentum-majus flap, respectively. 3) With regard to nerve surgery, encouraging results have been reported after early microsurgical recurrent laryngeal nerve repair, i.e. improved subjective voice quality or reconstitution of respiratory capacity in diaphragmatic. 4) Lymphatic surgery for lymphedema occurring either primarily due to an absence or lack of lymphatic vessels or secondarily due to infection, trauma, radiation therapy or surgery can be indicated in specialized microsurgical centers, e.g. for surgical repair of the lymphatic pathway: I) the interrupted lymphatic system can be reconstructed by an interposition, or II) the lymphatic fluid can be drained extraanatomically (e.g. by a lymphatic-venous anastomosis). Further techniques are the following: free lymph node transplantation included in a free vascularized groin flap or autologous lymphatic vessel transfer or vein graft interposition (used for lymphatic vessel interposition). 5) Mass reduction such as dermolipectomy with subsequent split-thickness is a valuable option, which provides excellent volume reduction. 6) Defect coverage: A. Split- or full-thickness skin grafts are a common method of defect coverage (in cases of clean and well-vascularized wound bed and lacking donor skin, or if the graft bed is of questionable quality) using various allogenic or xenogenic skin substitute materials. B. Further methods offer a wide-range armamentarium of local and free fasciocutaneous and musculocutaneous flaps, e.g. after abdomino-perineal rectum extirpation using the vertical rectus-abdominis myocutaneous flap (VRAM) or propeller flaps according to the “angiosome”. 7) Abdominal wall hernia closure with instable skin coverage, flap closure, either alone or in combination with mesh is superior to mesh closure only. 8) Free flaps: If there is no option for a local or pedicled flap available, free flaps can be well used for abdominal wall defect closure (complication rate in experienced hands is low). Conclusion: Plastic surgery is an indispensable partner for specific surgical problems and clinical situations of general and abdominal surgery, which indicates that each general and abdominal surgeon should be well notified on great options and surgical techniques offered by modern plastic surgery to achieve best outcomes and quality of life for patients and should combine the expertise of these two surgical disciplines.
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