The microvenous valvular anatomy of the human dorsal thoracic fascia

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology; Senior Scholars Program

Faculty Mentor

Sandy Marks

Publication Date


Document Type



Fascia; Humans; Microcirculation; Microscopy, Electron, Scanning; Pectoralis Muscles; Surgical Flaps; Thorax; Veins


Anatomy | Plastic Surgery


The use of free scapular fasciocutaneous flaps for reconstruction of recalcitrant grade 6 venous stasis ulcers has shown excellent early success rates. Venous refilling times measured postoperatively over the flaps by photoplethysmography have noted improvements to normal levels. Preliminary anatomic studies have demonstrated valves in the circumflex scapular veins of flaps used in reconstruction. The purpose of this study was to investigate and document the number, morphology, size, and location of valves in the human dorsal thoracic fascia. Ten scapular flaps were obtained from unembalmed cadavers and injected with methyl methacrylate. Each flap cast was divided into four parts: proximal, right and left, and distal, right and left. We reduced the size of specimens (the largest being 24 x 11 mm) and studied them in a scanning electron microscope. We identified all valves, estimated the diameter of the corresponding vein, calculated the depth of the valvular sinus, and related it to the corresponding venous size. Light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy were used as assisting tools applied to glutaraldehyde-fixed specimens. Analysis of injected specimens showed that valves were most abundant in veins with a luminal diameter of 30 to 120 microns (59.3 percent of 905 valves). The depth of valves became larger with increasing venous diameter. The sizes of valve sinuses were not different for individual valves. Except for veins larger than 1000 microns in diameter, there was no significant difference between the number of valves in different parts of an individual flap, nor were there significant differences between the valve numbers in different flaps. Most valves were bicuspid; only in the vein category of 30 to 120 microns were unicuspid valves encountered. Valves sometimes were located in series in a short segment of a vein; occasionally, they were found at the merging site of two veins. Transmission electron microscopy showed that valve leaflets had collagen fibers that ascended toward the tip of the leaflet and occasionally were accompanied by elastic fibers. Myofibroblasts were regularly present in the valve leaflets. These data show that fasciocutaneous flaps from the scapular region have numerous valves (90 valves on average in each flap) in the venous microcirculation. The microvenous valves in the dorsal thoracic fascia appear to be structurally similar to valves in larger veins. These valves may play a role in the improved hemodynamics and promising clinical outcome of patients with chronic venous insufficiency who have undergone free scapular flap reconstruction.

DOI of Published Version



Plast Reconstr Surg. 1997 Jan;99(1):78-86.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Plastic and reconstructive surgery


Medical student Adam Vernadakis participated in this study as part of his Senior Scholars research project.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID