Lower extremity reconstruction often poses several challenges for the reconstructive surgeon. Because of limited local tissue options, patients who sustain extensive middle to distal third tibia fractures used to be at higher risk of limb loss without adequate soft tissue coverage. The traditional principle of reconstructing middle and distal third leg wounds with free tissue transfer is being challenged by advances in understanding of local muscle flap anatomy and surgical techniques to improve the efficacy of local flaps. In this article, we examine contemporary considerations, developed by the authors, for the appropriate indications of free tissue transfer versus use of local flaps such as the soleus muscle flap. We review the versatility and reliability of the soleus muscle as a local muscle option once the technique is mastered on how to safely and effectively design and execute this flap. We highlight the importance of an algorithmic approach to soft-tissue reconstruction of the lower extremity based on the best surgical option for the patient. This includes factors such as medical history, appropriate surgical candidacy, as well as the size and mechanism of injury to decide the most viable option for lower extremity reconstruction. We show that the medial hemisoleus muscle flap is a reliable local option, both by itself or in conjunction with other local flaps, to reconstruct less extensive wounds in the middle to distal third of the leg. Ultimately, such a local muscle flap must be mastered by the reconstructive surgeon to augment his or her armamentarium to provide a well-rounded reconstructive plan in managing the soft-tissue wound, while minimizing donor-site morbidity and potentially be more cost-effective in nature.
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