Functional Latissimus Dorsi Transfer for Upper-Extremity Reconstruction

A Case Report and Review of the Literature

Aditya Sood, MD, MBA; Paul J. Therattil, MD; Gerardo Russo, BS; Edward S. Lee, MD


ePlasty. 2017;17(e5) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Objective: The latissimus dorsi flap is a workhorse for plastic surgeons, being used for many years for soft-tissue coverage of the upper extremity as well as for functional reconstruction to restore motion to the elbow and shoulder. The authors present a case of functional latissimus dorsi transfer for restoration of elbow flexion and review the literature on technique and outcomes.

Methods: A literature review was performed using MEDLINE and the Cochrane Collaboration Library for primary research articles on functional latissimus dorsi flap transfer. Data related to surgical techniques and outcomes were extracted.

Results: The literature search yielded 13 relevant studies, with a total of 52 patients who received pedicled, functional latissimus dorsi flaps for upper-extremity reconstruction. The most common etiology requiring reconstruction was closed brachial plexus injury (n = 13). After flap transfer, 98% of patients were able to flex the elbow against gravity and 82.3% were able to flex against resistance. In the presented case, a 77-year-old man underwent resection of myxofibrosarcoma of the upper arm with elbow prosthesis placement and functional latissimus dorsi transfer. The patient was able to actively flex against gravity at 3-month follow-up.

Conclusions: A review of the literature shows that nearly all patients undergoing functional latissimus dorsi transfer for upper-extremity reconstruction regain at least motion against gravity whereas a large proportion regain motion against resistance. Considerations when planning for functional latissimus dorsi transfer include patient positioning, appropriate tensioning of the muscle, safe inset, polarity, management of other affected upper-extremity joints, and educating patients on the expected outcomes.