Tissue transfers (from one part of the patient’s body to another, also known as “flaps”) provide a means for reconstructive surgeons to repair parts of the body, restoring appearance and in many cases function and feeling. The most common reasons for patients to undergo tissue transfer is after treatment for cancer or after trauma, burn or injury.

In tissue transfer, the plastic surgeon removes tissue, including skin, fat, muscle, nerves and bone, from one part of the body and moves it to the part of the body where it is needed. The arteries and veins are re-attached and, in some cases, the nerves are as well. One of the most well-known types of tissue transfer is used in breast reconstruction for women who have had a mastectomy as part of their treatment for breast cancer. Another common type of tissue transfer is done for patients who have been severely burned or have significant tissue damage from devastating injuries or accidents.

Used in many reconstructive procedures including mandibular, breast, extremity and facial reconstructions.

 

Advantages:

  • Stable wound coverage.
  • Improved aesthetic and functional outcomes.
  • High success rate.

 

There are four kinds of tissue transfer:

Local flap

  • Skin and underlying tissue lie adjacent to the wound.
  • Remains attached at one end and repositioned over the wounded area.
  • An exact match to tissue and the shape of the space it’s being used for, such as the face.

 

Regional flap

  • Uses a section of tissue attached by a specific blood vessel.
  • Needs a very narrow attachment to the original site to receive its nourishing blood supply from the tethered artery and vein.
  • comprised of tissues taken from a nearby area and are often used to re-build large areas of vital structures including bone and nerves.

 

Musculocutaneous flap

  • Muscle and skin flap.
  • Area to be covered needs more bulk and a robust blood supply.
  • Often used in breast reconstruction.

 

Free flap

  • Aka free tissue transfer, involves the removal of tissue from an entirely different part of the body.
  • This procedure requires optimal blood supply and advanced microvascular surgery.