Skin and Muscle Flaps 

Skin and muscle flap procedures are similar to grafts, but have their own blood supply. 

Large, complicated wounds will need much more than just a set of stitches to heal properly. In some cases, the best course of action is to use part of the patient’s own body to close the wound and promote healing. This is accomplished with the use of grafts or flaps.  While there are many similarities between the two, there is a key difference: Flaps always have their own blood supply. That means they don’t need to rely on the tissue in the surrounding area as heavily as grafts do. Skin is often used for flaps and grafts, and muscle is also widely used for flaps. 

Conditions Treated

Skin and muscle flaps are used for covering wounds such as: 

  • Open fractures 
  • Joint contractures 
  • Recipient beds 

Flaps are also used to reconstruct specific body parts, including toes and breasts, and they can help import blood supply in wounds that have become infected. 

Procedure Details 

While grafts and flaps serve similar purposes, flap surgery is more complex because it involves the harvesting of healthy, living tissue and blood vessels. The flap must then be carefully attached to the wound site so that it can get enough oxygen to prevent tissue death. 

What to Expect 

After a skin or muscle flap procedure is completed, it is recommended that patients rest for several days and avoid any movement that could compromise the flap. Patients will be able to remove their wound dressings within one week, and a doctor will determine which steps must be taken next after assessing the flap site. 

As with any surgery, there are risks associated with this procedure: 

  • Infection
  • Constant pain or bleeding
  • Improper healing
  • Tissue death 


With proper care, skin and muscle flaps are effective at healing complex wounds. Certain lifestyle habits (such as smoking or a poor diet) or medical conditions (such as diabetes mellitus) can affect a flap’s chance of survival, so consultation with a doctor is important before undergoing a procedure. 

At Tampa General Hospital, our board-certified and fellowship-trained surgeons across many disciplines use cutting-edge technology to achieve world-class outcomes in skin and muscle flap procedures.