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Skin Flap Surgery


Skin flap surgery is done to cover a deep or large open wound or repair damaged skin. A skin flap is a portion of skin that is moved from one area of the body to another. The area the skin flap will be taken from 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. Skin flaps and their blood vessels may be completely removed from the donor site and connected to blood vessels at the flap site.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Ask when you should return to have your flap site checked, stitches removed, and bandage changed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


Raise your flap site above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your flap site on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

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:

  • Do not let your wound get wet. Keep your wound clean and dry. When you are allowed to bathe or shower, carefully wash the flap and donor sites with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.
  • 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 6 months. If your skin appears dry and scaly, keep it moist by applying lotion. Ask your healthcare provider which type of lotion you may use on your skin.

Wound healing:

  • Eat healthy foods that are high in protein to help improve wound healing. Foods high in protein include poultry (turkey and chicken), meat, eggs, beans, and dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt). Ask your healthcare provider for more information about a high-protein diet and ask if you should take vitamins.
  • Do not smoke cigars, pipes, or cigarettes. Smoking may delay healing by affecting the formation of new blood vessels on the flap and donor site.
  • Certain medicines, such as steroids and blood thinners, may delay wound healing. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about medicines that may cause a delay in wound healing.
  • If you have diabetes, take your medicines regularly and control your blood sugar level. Diabetes can cause poor wound healing. Ask your healthcare provider to help you manage your diabetes.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your skin is swollen, has a rash, or it itches.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Something is bulging out from your flap site.
  • You have pain that does not go away in the flap site.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your wound or donor site has blood, pus, or a foul-smelling odor.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

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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.

Further information

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