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Skin Flap Surgery


  • Skin flap surgery is done to treat large wounds that cannot be closed by skin grafting. It may also be done to repair surgical or traumatic scars to improve skin appearance. Skin flap surgery uses skin flaps, which are skin and tissue near the wound, to cover the wound. Skin flaps have good color matching and contain important skin structures needed to cover the wound. They remain attached to their original site and retain their blood supply. Sometimes, a skin flap may use a portion of skin and tissue that is attached to a specific blood vessel. With skin flap surgery, form and function to areas of the body that have lost skin may be restored.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • 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.

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, and stitches or bandage removed.


You may use pillows to keep your flap site above the level of your heart. This may help decrease swelling and pain on the flap site. It can also help the injury heal faster.

Rest when you need to while you heal after surgery.

Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.

Wound care:

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. Any of the following may help improve wound healing:

  • 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. Ask your caregiver 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 in 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.


  • 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 surgery, or medicine.


  • 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.

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.