Conference Coverage

Closing large dermal defects much like a Victorian corset




EDINBURGH – Barbed absorbable sutures are a useful new tool to facilitate dermal closure of facial and nonfacial defects following tumor resection.

“These are not the bad old sutures that you might of heard about before, that were nonabsorbable sutures and attempted for use in cosmetic procedures,” Dr. John Strasswimmer said at the 15th World Congress on Cancers of the Skin.

Last year, Dr. Strasswimmer, medical director of melanoma and cutaneous oncology at the Lynn Cancer Institute in Boca Raton, Fla., reported his initial experience using a procedure he calls “Corseta” to close a large Mohs defect on the trunk of an 83-year-old man (JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149:853-4).

Dr. John Strasswimmer

Dr. John Strasswimmer

The procedure employs a barbed, bioabsorbable suture (Ethicon’s Stratafix and Covidien’s V-Loc) that is run in a continuous vertical looping manner in the subcutaneous layer, with minimal to no undermining of the wound. Undermining is typically used in cutaneous surgery to relieve tension or provide structure around anatomical landmarks, but it can increase the risk of bleeding, swelling, and patient discomfort, he said.

Instead, the first suture pass is placed in the deepest portion of the subcutaneous tissue and brought out within the more superficial subcutaneous layer. Each bite of the barbed suture extends peripherally at least 2.0 cm from the edge of the wound, so the point of tension is lateral to the wound margins. At every two passes, tension is placed evenly across the sutures to close the deepest layer of tissue and to engage the barbs, much like closing of a Victorian corset, Dr. Strasswimmer said.

The second arm of the suture is passed in a similar manner in the subcutaneous plane, superficial to the first pass.

“This is a lacing, not a suturing technique,” he said. “You get tissue approximation, but more importantly, because we’re bringing in all that deep tissue, you automatically get beautiful wound-edge eversion and very nice cosmetic results.”

Because the sutures have barbs cut into them, however, a 0-0 weight polydioxane or other absorbable material suture can have a breaking strength of a #2-0 suture. “You have to look very carefully at the manufacturer’s sizing and strength requirements,” Dr. Strasswimmer cautioned.

Since their initial case report, Dr. Strasswimmer and his colleagues have expanded use of the Corseta technique to more than 600 facial and nonfacial reconstructions. The Corseta procedure is not as helpful for curved topography such as the central face or scalp, he said in an interview. Still, of the 600 or so cases, none required conversion to another closure technique.

“The traditional closure technique would not have worked in those challenging cases,” Dr. Strasswimmer said. “In the most difficult situations, such as older patients with severely atrophic skin, even the best suturing won’t work. In that case, the Corseta at least produces a partial closure, thereby reducing the wound and accelerating healing.”
The Corseta procedure is often coupled with tumescent anesthesia to decrease the risk of bleeding, particularly in patients on anticoagulation, he noted.

The conference was sponsored by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

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