J Reconstr Microsurg 2020; 36(06): 403-411
DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1702151
Original Article
Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Unique Complications of Venous Anastomotic Couplers: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Gerald J. Wu
1  Division of Plastic Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana
,
Scott N. Loewenstein
1  Division of Plastic Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana
,
Brian A. Mailey
2  Department of Surgery, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Institute for Plastic Surgery, Springfield, Illinois
,
Sarah Sasor
3  Department of Plastic Surgery, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
,
Julia Cook
1  Division of Plastic Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana
,
Aladdin H. Hassanein
1  Division of Plastic Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

05 September 2019

04 January 2020

Publication Date:
27 February 2020 (online)

Abstract

Background Anastomotic couplers expedite venous microvascular anastomoses and have been established as an equivalent alternative to hand-sewn anastomoses. However, complications unique to the coupler such as palpability and extrusion can occur. The purpose of this study was to perform a systematic review of the literature to assess complications distinct to the venous anastomotic coupler.

Methods A Medline, PubMed, EBSCO host search of articles involving anastomotic venous couplers was performed. Studies involving arterial anastomotic couplers, end-to-side anastomoses, and reviews were excluded. Data points of interest were flap failure, venous thrombosis, hematoma, partial flap necrosis, infection, coupler extrusion, and coupler palpability.

Results The search identified 165 articles; 41 of these met inclusion criteria. A total of 8,246 patients underwent 8,955 venous-coupled anastomoses. Combined reoperation rate was 3.3% and all-cause unsalvageable flap failure was 1.0%. Complications requiring reoperation included venous thrombosis (2.0%), hematoma (0.4%), partial flap necrosis (0.4%), and infection (0.3%). Eight patients had palpable couplers and 11 patients had extrusion of couplers (head/neck, hand, and feet) and required operative management.

Conclusion Venous couplers remain an equivalent alternative to conventional hand-sewn anastomosis. However, venous coupler extrusion and palpability in the late postoperative period is a complication unique to anastomotic couplers, particularly in radiated head and neck, feet and hand free flaps. Removing extruded venous couplers is safe after tissue integration 3 weeks postoperatively. Coupler palpability and extrusion should be integrated into preoperative patient counseling and assessed in follow-up examinations.