The serratus anterior subslip: Anatomy and implications for facial and hand reanimation

Scott D. Lifchez, James R. Sanger, David M. Godat, René F. Recinos, John A. LoGiudice, Ji Geng Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The ideal donor muscle for facial and hand reanimation has yet to be found. Donor muscles commonly used today, such as the gracilis and pectoralis minor, are limited by bulkiness and the number of force vectors they can provide. In the authors' study of 50 fresh cadaver serratus anterior muscles, they further describe neurovascular anatomy of the muscle slip (i.e., the portion of the muscle that inserts on a rib) and subslip (superficial or deep subdivision of the slip after division along a loose areolar plane). All 260 slips could be separated into a deep and a superficial subslip, yielding a total of 520 subslips. A branch of the serratus artery (a terminal branch of the thoracodorsal artery serving the lower five to seven slips of the muscle) and a branch of the long thoracic nerve were identified for each of these. Deep subslips were thinner than superficial subslips, both at the origin of the slip on the rib periosteum (2.4 mm versus 3.0 mm, p < 0.0001) and centrally at the serratus artery (3.3 mm versus 4.0 mm, p < 0.0001). In addition, the subslips of the most inferior slip were thinner than those of more superior slips, both at the origin of the slip (2.3 mm versus 2.8 mm, p < 0.0001) and at the serratus artery (3.0 mm versus 3.8 mm, p < 0.0001). Fine anastomosing vessels were present between the slips and the subslips. The average number of anastomosing vessels present between adjacent slips was 1.7, and 2.1 anastomosing vessels were present between the subslips of a given slip. Given the thinness of these vessels (all less than 0.2 mm) compared with those of the vascular pedicle of the subslip (mean, 0.7 mm; all greater than 0.4 mm), the authors believe these can be safely divided without compromising subslip vascularity. After division of these vessels, a mean length of 9.6 ± 1.5 cm is available to allow independent orientation of each subslip. When the serratus muscle flap is separated into its component subslips, a maximum of 10 possible force vectors may be transferred on a single vascular pedicle. Subslips are significantly thinner than donor muscles commonly used today. These two advantages offer the potential for significant functional and aesthetic improvement when the serratus anterior muscle flap is used for face and hand reanimation. Mimetic muscles such as the orbicularis oculi and orbicularis oris could possibly be reconstructed in their proper anatomical positions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1068-1076
Number of pages9
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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