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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- A skin flap is a portion of skin that is moved from one area of the body to another. It is made up of all layers of the skin and some fatty tissue. A skin flap may also include muscle, cartilage, and hair. The area where the skin flap will be taken is called the donor site. One end of the skin flap often remains attached to the donor site and to its blood supply. The other end of the skin flap is moved to cover the wound. Sometimes, skin flaps are completely cut from the donor site, and their blood vessels are connected to blood vessels at the wound site. A skin flap is commonly used to cover a deep or large open wound, or repair damaged skin.
- A skin flap may be taken from any part of the body, but is usually from an area with loose skin. The skin flap is usually close to the wound or from the same area as the wound. It may also be taken from a different part of the body that is far from the wound. As much as possible, a skin flap should look the same as the area where it will be placed. Skin color, texture (smoothness), hair growth, and thickness, will all be looked at when choosing an area to take the skin flap. Having a skin flap may help restore form and function to areas of the body that have lost skin.
- Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
- Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.
- Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
- Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
- Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
- Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
- Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
- Antihistamines: This medicine may be given to help decrease itching.
Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:
For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.Ask your caregiver when you should return to have your wound checked, stitches removed, and bandage changed.
The flap and donor sites must remain free from germs, such as bacteria and viruses, in order for them to heal. Certain factors may cause flap failure and delay wound healing. Do the following to help your wounds heal:
- Avoid smoking cigars, pipes and cigarettes. Smoking may affect the formation of new blood vessels on the flap and wound site.
- Certain medicines, such as steroids and blood thinners, may delay wound healing. Ask your caregiver for more information about medicines that may cause a delay in wound healing.
- Do not let your wounds get wet. Always keep your wounds clean and dry. When you are allowed to bathe or shower, carefully wash the flap and donor site with soap and water. Afterwards, put on clean, new bandages. Change your bandages every time they get wet or dirty. See other special instructions for more information about wound care.
- If you have certain diseases, such as diabetes (high blood sugar), take your medicines regularly and carefully control your blood sugar. People with diabetes may have poor wound healing. Ask your caregiver for help with managing your diabetes.
- Limit movements such as stretching, to prevent bleeding, shearing, and swelling in the wound and flap sites.
- Protect the flap site from direct sunlight for at least six months to avoid burning of the skin. If it appears dry and scaly, keep it moist by applying lotion to it. Ask your caregiver for the type of lotion you may need to use on your skin.
- Taking vitamins and eating healthy foods high in protein may improve wound healing. Poultry, meat, dairy products such as eggs and cheese are high in protein. Ask your caregiver if you should use vitamins, and for more information about a high-protein diet.
CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:
- You have a fever.
- You have nausea (upset stomach) or vomiting (throwing up).
- Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
- You have questions or concerns about your skin flap, or medicine.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You feel something is bulging out from your flap site and not going back in.
- You have pain that does not go away in the area where the flap was made.
- You have trouble breathing all of a sudden.
- Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
- Your flap site or donor site has blood, pus, or a foul-smelling odor.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.