Choosing reliable recipient vessels is crucial for successful free flap reconstruction of lower extremity defects, especially in patients with ischemic vasculopathy. This report describes our experience with the intraoperative use of indocyanine green angiography (ICGA) for selecting recipient vessels in lower extremity free flap reconstruction cases.
Three patients with lower extremity defects and ischemic vasculopathy underwent free flap reconstruction. Intraoperatively, the candidate vessels were evaluated using ICGA. In the first case, a 10 × 6 cm defect on the anterior side of the lower third of the leg caused by minor trauma and associated with peripheral arterial occlusive disease was reconstructed using a super-thin anterolateral thigh flap based on one perforator. In the second case, a 12 × 8 cm defect on the posterior side of the right lower leg caused by a dog bite and associated with severe atherosclerosis throughout all three major vessels in the lower leg was reconstructed using a muscle-sparing latissimus dorsi myocutaneous flap. In the third case, a 13.5 × 5.5 cm defect on the right lateral malleolar region, where the peroneus longus tendon was exposed due to Buerger’s disease, was reconstructed using a one perforator-based super-thin anterolateral thigh flap.
In all cases, ICGA was used to evaluate the functionality of the candidate recipient vessels. In two cases, the candidate vessels showed acceptable blood flow, and the operations proceeded as planned. In the third case, the planned vessels of posterior tibial vessels were not identified to have sufficient blood flow, and one of their branches showing enhancement in ICGA was selected and used as a recipient vessel. All flaps survived completely. No adverse events occurred during the follow-up period of postoperative 3 months. Our results suggest that ICGA may be a valuable diagnostic tool for evaluating the quality of candidate recipient vessels in cases where their functionality cannot be guaranteed with conventional imaging modalities.