After surgery to remove cancer in the head and neck, it is sometimes necessary to fill the surgical defect with tissue from another part of the body. Often, soft tissues such as muscle and skin from adjacent areas can be rotated or advanced into the defect. On occasion, tissues from other parts of the body are better suited for wound closure. The soft tissues used to help with wound closure are called reconstructive flaps.
Some reconstructive flaps remain attached to their blood supply and are rotated into the wound defect. These reconstructive flaps are called pedicled flaps. Other flaps are disconnected from their blood supply, and reattached to a new blood supply at the surgical defect. These more complicated reconstructive flaps are called microvascular free flaps.
The best reconstructive flap for a surgical wound is determined by your Otolaryngologist on an individual basis.
Sometimes, other techniques such as skin grafting will also be used. If your tumor removal requires flap reconstruction, this will be discussed with you at length before surgery.