Many patients seek reconstructive treatment after an injury, disease or surgery to restore the appearance and function of the skin around lips, nose, eyelids, ears, and other important areas of the face and neck. These treatments can be performed to remove unsightly scars, close large or complex wounds, and expand areas of skin or tissue that have distorted as a result of scar contraction.
Skin grafts are transplants of skin of varying thickness, detached and donated from a less conspicuous site elsewhere on the body. This graft is then used resurface a facial wound. Approximately ten days are required for the graft to receive enough ingrowth of blood vessels from the area it is attached to for skin survival to occur. A special dressing prevents shifting of the graft during this critical healing period.
Skin Flaps by contrast are not completely detached from the donor site. Rather, they are areas of skin and underlying tissue which can be shifted from an area of relative abundance into an adjacent wound, where it will fill the void. By clever design, the new wound resulting from donating the flap itself is closed in an inconspicuous way (ie, in a preexisting fold, or along a hairline). Since the flap brings with it an intact connection that preserves nutritive blood supply, skin flaps heal rapidly and retain the desired color and texture characteristics better than skin grafts.
Some flaps are even more complex, and are composed not only of skin, but fat, muscle layers, or cartilage and bone. So-called Free Flaps have special uses, and require microsurgical techniques to connect blood vessels directly from donated flap tissue to nearby vessels in the face or neck
Treatment with reconstructive grafts or flaps help to reduce or eliminate the appearance of scars and expedite the healing process so that patients do not have to live with unsightly and often disfiguring wounds on their face. Your doctor will determine which type of treatment is best for you after a thorough evaluation of your condition.