Case report| Volume 65, ISSUE 11, P1586-1588, November 2012

Acute vasculitis resulting in free flap failure: The importance of early recognition and options for management

Published:April 26, 2012DOI:


      Unusual or unexpected medical causes for free flap failure do occur but are uncommon. We present a rare case of a fibula free flap failure due to an acute vasculitis which was undiagnosed until after the flap had failed. In addition to two successful flap salvages and intravenous heparin, an epoprostenol infusion was commenced but a third salvage was not successful. The vasculitis resulted in marked blood vessel wall thickening, and cutaneous manifestations which presented as late signs. High peri-nuclear anti nuclear cytoplasmic antibody (pANCA) and myeloperoxidase (MOP) titres were subsequently found and histology from several blood vessels showed marked inflammation throughout the wall. A diagnosis of microscopic polyangiitis was made and high dose steroids were subsequently commenced. Interestingly, he had vasculitis several years previously treated with oral steroids but had been discharged from the rheumatology clinic. This rare case illustrates the potential hazards of free flap surgery in the vasculitides and discusses the warning signs and various management options to reduce the likelihood of flap failure in these patients.


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