Scapular free flap harvest site: Recognising the spectrum of radiographic post-operative appearance

D. K. Powell, F. Nwoke, M. L. Urken, D. Buchbinder, A. S. Jacobson, J. E. Silberzweig, A. S. Khorsandi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Scapular free flap harvesting for oral cavity cancer reconstruction is an increasingly used and versatile option. We aim to describe the appearance of the scapula harvest site on chest radiograph and CT. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed a surgical database of 82 patients who underwent scapular osteocutaneous flap harvesting for oral cavity cancer reconstruction and had imaging performed at our institution. We searched the picture archiving and communications system for all associated imaging. Results: Characteristic radiographic appearance in the immediate post-operative period as well as in the remote post-operative period is described, including an upside-down V-shaped paraglenoid notch, rectangular (or triangular) lateral border defects and a sharply pointed inferior scapular body. Additionally, common CT appearances are discussed, including an abrupt gleno-scapular interval, an absent axillary rim bulge and a Z-shaped scapula. Conclusion: The altered appearance of the scapular defect following surgical harvest is easily recognised. Although the description of this defect may not alter management and may reasonably be omitted, a radiologist's comfort with these appearances may potentially enhance the understanding of patient management and recognition of superimposed complications, such as infection. Advances in knowledge: Scapular osteocutaneous free flap reconstruction is an increasingly used technique after oral cavity surgery. Very few radiologists reported in our review the surgical scapular defects, and there is apparent ignorance of their appearance. We described characteristic radiographic and CT signs of scapular free flap harvesting to increase radiologists' familiarity with these defects, which may provide clinical information and possibly contribute to detection of complications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20120574
JournalBritish Journal of Radiology
Issue number1023
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


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