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Byline: Rana Hassan Javaid Shahid Hameed Darren Chester Ehtesham ul Haq Muhammad Waqas Omamah Yusaf Ghazanfar Ali Ahsin Masood Butt and Danish Almas


Objective: To assess the outcome of early skin tumour excision and reconstruction with regards to tumour margin clearance recurrence and aesthetic results of reconstruction.

Study Design: Quasi experimental.

Place and Duration of Study: This study was carried in the department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Rawalpindi Pakistan from January 2010 to December 2012.

Patients and Methods: All patients having tumours of the cheek upper and lower lips nose and forehead who underwent primary surgical excision and reconstruction with local flaps were included in the study. Patients with nodal or distant metastasis were excluded. Tumours were excised with safe margins and defects reconstructed with local facial flaps. Patients were regularly followed up as per protocol for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Results: Eighty nine patients aged between 37-86 years with a mean age of 59.4 years (SD 9.24) were included in the study. There were 58 (65%) cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and 31 (35%) of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Recurrence was seen in 3 (5.2%) cases of BCC and 2 (6.4%) cases of SCC. There was 1 (1.1%) complete and 4 (4.5%) partial flap losses. The follow-up period ranged from 4 months to 3 years with average of 16 months.

Conclusion: Local flaps give a simple option for facial reconstruction for postoncological resection defects giving good aesthetic match due to local tissue.Keywords: Basal cell carcinoma Facial reconstruction Squamous cell carcinoma.


Squamous and basal cell carcinoma of the face is a significant problem in our patient population due to occupational and socioeconomic factors12.

In early stages (I and II) surgery is curative as the biological behavior of these cancers is usually loco-regionally invasive3. The most important goal is to obtain a tumor-free patient. Several studies have outlined the surgical parameters necessary for the excision4 6. Well- defined primary basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) less than 2 cm in diameter should be excised with 4.0 mm margins to obtain a 95% cure rate57. Primary squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) require 4.0 mm margins for low-risk tumors and 6.0 mm margins for high-risk tumors (=2.0 cm; greater than II histological grade; nose lip scalp ears eyelids; invasion into the subcutaneous tissue) to obtain a 95% cure rate46.

Another aim is to give better quality of life by allowing better facial aesthetics and function than if no reconstruction was used.

Different methods of reconstruction can be used ranging from skin grafts local flaps regional flaps and free flaps. Grafts do not have an intact blood supply or drainage and have to re-establish a blood supply and drainage from the recipient bed. Skin grafts can only cover superficial defects and have a natural tendency to contract and may not take the placement properly. Also because of the color mismatch they are not cosmetically identical to the face.

Flaps are segments of tissue that retain some form of blood supply which allows them to be living tissue when transferred.

Free flaps can be used to cover large defects especially of the lip cheek and oral mucosa but require advanced skill and special instruments not forgetting a long anesthesia time and may not be warranted in small defects resulting from excision of early skin tumors.

Local flaps are those that are derived from the immediate area of resection and common examples of these include the swing slide bilobed naso-labial and the forehead flap. These types of flaps are advanced transposed interpolated or rotated into position. The blood supply of most of these flaps is either via an axial pattern or by a random pattern. Axial flaps receive their blood supply from a single nutrient vessel while random pattern flaps receive capillary blood supply in a random pattern from all directions and not from a single nutrient vessel.

In this study we review our experience with facial reconstructions after excision of non melanotic skin tumors with local flaps.


Consecutive patients (n=89) who underwent excision and reconstruction of early nonmelanoma skin cancers of the face from Jan 2010 to Dec 2012 were included in this study carried out at CMH Rawalpindi. Tumours stage (T1 and T2 N0 and M0) I and II were included in the study. The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system was followed. No patients with recurrent tumours were included in this study. Patients with history of previous radiotherapy or having nodal and /or metastatic disease were excluded. Patients who underwent direct closure or reconstruction of post resection wounds by skin grafts were also excluded from the study.

After an incisional biopsy confirmed the malignancy all patients underwent excision of the skin cancer with margins appropriate for the type behavior and size of the lesion. A margin of 3-4 mm was taken for BCC and 5-10 mm margin for SCC. All specimens underwent histological examination. Frozen section was not done in these patients. All wounds were managed by local flaps. The excisions were performed under local anesthesia or local anesthesia plus intravenous sedation except in those patients whose wounds were closed with a forehead or cheek advancement/rotation flap who received general anesthesia. In patients who underwent surgery in local anaesthesia 1% lignocaine with adrenaline was used.

The reconstructive modality of choice depends largely on the location size and depth of the surgical defect. The reconstructive technique procedure and the flap design was thoroughly discussed with the patients in the pre assessment clinic. Also pre-operative photos were routinely taken immediately prior to surgery. An informed consent was signed by the patient and countersigned by the surgeon. The technique of anesthesia the flap design and the duration of operation were recorded.

Postoperatively; the flap was monitored for color changes temperature and the capillary filling time. The postoperative complications and involvement of tumor margins on histopathology report (if any) was documented. None of the patients were given radiotherapy.

For lip reconstruction parameters used to guage a successful outcome included restoration of lip function acceptable cosmetic appearance minimal donor morbidity. Lip functions were described as static competence; occlusion of oral sphincter at rest without drooling dynamic competence during eating solid and liquid diet and phonation. Cosmetic parameters were defined mainly to include the integrity of vermilion surface evenness of red margin and acceptable size and contour of the mouth. Follow up of squamous and basal cell carcinoma was as per National Comprehensive Cancer Network NCCN7 practice guidelines in oncology. It was done every 3-6 months for 2 years every 6-12 months for 3 years then annually for life SCC. For BCC complete skin examination was done for 6- 12 months for life. Patients were educated to minimize sun exposure and on techniques of self examination.

Evaluation of late aesthetic outcome was according to the following parameters: absence of disfigurement or functional morbidity of the donor site accepted symmetrical appearance and patient's satisfaction aesthetically.

Analysis was made from the data by using

SPSS version 16.0. Quantitative variables were expressed as mean and standard deviation (SD) whereas frequencies and percentages were shown for qualitative variables.


Eighty nine patients with age range of 37-86 years and mean age of 59.4 years (SD 9.24) were included in the study. Fifty five patients (62%) were males. There were fifty eight (65%) cases of BCC and 31 (35%) of SCC. Five patients (6%) had underlying xeroderma pigmentosa. Four of these patients had BCC and one SCC. The most common involvement site was nose (44%) followed by cheeks (34%) lips (14%) and forehead (8%). For cheek reconstruction nasolabial flap check advancement and check rotation flaps were most commonly used. For lip reconstruction Karapandzic technique Primary Abbe (Lip switch) flap was used. We had good restoration of lip function acceptable cosmetic appearance and minimal donor morbidity in all cases of lip reconstruction. Nasal reconstruction was commonly performed with the help of forehead nasolabial glabellar and bilobed flaps. Switch and advancement flaps were used for forehead reconstruction (table-1).

All margins were clear on histopathological report except in 3 (3%) patients in whom the tumour was reaching upto the margins. Reexcision and flap advancement was done in all 3 cases. No residual tumour was found on histological examination. Recurrence was seen in 5 (5.61) cases 3 (5.1%) cases of BCC and 2 (6.5%) cases of SCC. Re- excision and reconstruction was done in both the cases. There was 1 (1.17.) forehead flap (done for nasal) loss due to venous congestion which was managed by full thickness skin graft after flap loss.Therewere4partialflaplosses.

Table-1: Percentages of different flaps used for reconstruction.

Region###Flap###n (%)

Nose###Nasolabial###9 (10%)

###Forehead###14 (15.7%)

###Bilobed###9 (10%)

###Combined forehead###2 (2.2%)

###and nasolabial

###Glabellar###3 (3.5%)

Cheek###Cheek rotation###16 (17.9%)

###Cheek advancement###8 (9%)

###Nasolabial###4 (4.5%)

###Swing slide###3 (3.5%)

Nose and Combined cheek###2 (2.2%)

Forehead###Swing slide###4 (4.5%)

###Advancement###3 (3.5%)

Lip###Karapandzic###7 (7.9%)

###Abbe###3 (3.5%)

###Nasolabial###2 (2.2%)

Debridement was done and wounds were allowed to heal with secondary intention in all 4 cases. Haematoma was seen in 3 (3.4%) cases all of which were promptly drained. Thirteen patients were lost to follow up. In the rest the follow-up period ranged from 4 months to 3 years (mean 16 months).


Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of malignancy in white population and its incidence is on the rise in Pakistan too8. An increase in incidence is expected because of the aging population and greater exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation from depletion of the ozone layer9. The two primary histological types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). BCC is more common than squamous cell carcinoma8. Metastatic spread of BCC is rare but the malignancy is associated with substantial morbidity and high health-care costs10. Both of these are common in the head and neck region.

BCC is found most frequently on the face11 most common location is the nose (specifically the nasal tip and alae) while SCC accounts for 20% of cutaneous malignancies1213 and 90% of all head and neck cancers. According to the 2011 National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) clinical practice guidelines in oncology: basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers the goal of treatment is elimination of the tumour with maximal preservation of function and physical appearance7. We used surgical excision as the treatment modality in our study and were able to achieve a tumour free status effectively.

Surgical excision is probably the most commonly used technique. Cure rates vary from 98% for BCCs smaller than 1 cm to 92% for BCCs larger than 1.5 cm and from 96.9% to 92.1% for SCC1415. We had similar cure rates 94.8 for BCC and 93.5% for SCC over a shorter period of time. With longer follow up of these patients we would be in a better position to compare our recurrence rates for early BCC and SCC with the developed world.

Usually 4 mm margins are the norm for these rates. We removed the tumor with a 3-4 mm margin in cases of BCC and a 5 mm -10 mm margin in cases of SCC16. We had to re excise only 3 (3.4%) of the lesions and they also showed no residual tumour on the histopathology report.

Once these tumours are removed defects are created which need to be reconstructed to achieve good colour and texture match (good aesthetic results) while limiting the donor site morbidity as much as possible. Local flaps have the potential to provide all this. They replace like with like have good colour and texture match may be performed in a single stage and their donor sites can be closed primarily with little morbidity. Their disadvantages include a random blood supply limiting flap length the potential for distortion of surrounding structures in closure of the donor site and limited bulk for the repair of deep defects.

But these disadvantages can be eliminated or greatly reduced if the reconstructed defect is small and an appropriate flap is chosen for the defect. No single flap is optimal for every defect. Each defect must be individually analyzed for depth distortion of surrounding subunits and normal tissue available for reconstruction

Forehead defects in our study were reconstructed by mainly transposition and advancement flaps. We found that multiple deep skin creases within this area provide excellent camouflage for incisions. Care was taken to avoid distortion of the eyebrow and incisions were placed within skin creases when possible.

Reconstruction of nasal defects must preserve the integrity of complex facial functions and expressions as well as facial symmetry and a pleasing aesthetic outcome. The reconstructive modality of choice depends largely on the location size and depth of the surgical defect.

Keeping this in mind we used various local flaps for nasal reconstruction. We used the bilobed flap advocated by Zettili as the repair of choice for defects located between 0.5 and 1.5 cm of the distal and lateral aspect of the nose particularly defects involving the lateral tip supratip or defects near the tip 17-19. On the lower third of the nose where the skin is least mobile the bilobed flap allows the surgical site to be filled with nearby skin and matched for color and texture; it then allows for repair of the secondary defect with another well-matched flap from a nearby donor site. In case of defects with diameters between 1.5 and 2.0 cm and involving the alar lobules nasolabial transposition flap was used for reconstruction in this difficult area in defects greater than 2.5 3 cm in diameter which we found difficult to close with a nasolabial flap a forehead flap was used for reconstruction.

In cases where reconstruction of internal linning was also required It was also used as turnover flap. A combination of nasolabial and forehead flap was used in 2 cases. The Glabellar flap was used in our study to cover dorsal nasal defects not involving the tip. It provided local skin with an exact colour thickness and contour match for the nasal skin. We found it to be a safe flap the donor site morbidity being minimal.

For cheek reconstruction cheek dvancement flaps were used when the elasticity and mobility of the skin allowed undermining and closure of defects along the medial cheek. For defects near the nasofacial sulcus the flap was tacked to periosteum of the nasal bones to relieve tension in the distal flap and prevent dehiscence. The flaps elevated near the inferior lid were pulled laterally and not inferiorly to prevent ectropion. For larger defects of the cheek cheek rotation flap was used. For lip reconstruction mostly the Karapandzic and Abbe flap were used. The Abbe flap had the slight disadvantage of being a two stage flap. The Karapandzic flap provided good oral sphincter integrity. Both the flaps had good cosmetic results as the vermilion was reconstructed with similar tissue. Our results of lip reconstruction are similar to results quoted in other studies20. The late outcome in our cases was assessed by regular examination during a follow up period. There was good coverage of the defects no disfigurement and no donor site morbidity. Symmetrical appearance of the face was acceptable and the patients were satisfied by the aesthetic and functional outcome.


Our results show that local flaps in facial defect reconstruction provide excellent skin color and texture match and they can usually be performed in a single stage. Their donor sites can be closed primarily with little morbidity and absence in most cases of any secondary defect.


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Publication:Pakistan Armed Forces Medical Journal
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jun 30, 2014

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