Free Flap Coverage for Complex Primary and Revision Total Knee Arthroplasty

Alexander G. Athey, Cody C. Wyles, Brian T. Carlsen, Kevin I. Perry, Matthew T. Houdek, Steven L. Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Free flap coverage in the setting of a total knee arthroplasty is rare. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the outcome of patients who underwent a free flap to assist with soft-tissue coverage following a complex total knee arthroplasty. Methods: The authors used their institutional total joint registry to retrospectively review patients undergoing a free soft-tissue flap in the setting of complex primary and revision total knee arthroplasty. Among 29,069 primary and 6433 revision total knee arthroplasties from 1994 to 2017, eight (0.02 percent) required a free flap for wound coverage. This included three primary total knee arthroplasties (0.01 percent) for posttraumatic arthritis and five revision total knee arthroplasties (0.07 percent) in the setting of infection. Median follow-up was 4 years. Results: Free flaps included vertical rectus abdominis (n = 3), anterior lateral thigh (n = 2), latissimus (n = 2), and transverse rectus abdominis (n = 1). There were no total flap losses; however, one patient required additional skin grafting. Reoperation occurred in six patients, of which four were revisions of the total knee arthroplasty for infection (n = 2) and tibial component loosening (n = 2). One patient ultimately underwent transfemoral amputation for persistent infection. Following reconstruction, there was improvement in the median Knee Society Score (49 versus 82; p = 0.03) and total range of motion between preoperative and postoperative assessments (70 degrees versus 85 degrees; p = 0.14). Conclusion: Free flap coverage in the setting of total knee arthroplasty was associated with a high rate of reoperation; however, the limb was able to be preserved in the majority of patients, with a reasonable functional outcome. CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic, IV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)804E-810E
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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