Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery
An open access publication of Association of Plastic Surgeons of India
Users Online: 803  
Home | Subscribe | Feedback | Login 
  Navigate here 
 Resource links
 »   Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
 »   Article in PDF (547 KB)
 »   Citation Manager
 »   Access Statistics
 »   Reader Comments
 »   Email Alert *
 »   Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  
  In this article
 »  References
 »  Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded55    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal


 Table of Contents    
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 44  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 528-529

Microvascular pedicle coverage with split thickness skin graft: Indications and surgical tips

Clinica Cavadas, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Valencia, Spain

Date of Web Publication15-Dec-2011

Correspondence Address:
A Thione
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Clinica Cavadas, Paseo de Facultades 1, bajo 8, 46021 Valencia
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-0358.90858

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Thione A, Cavadas P C, Landin L, Ibañez J. Microvascular pedicle coverage with split thickness skin graft: Indications and surgical tips. Indian J Plast Surg 2011;44:528-9

How to cite this URL:
Thione A, Cavadas P C, Landin L, Ibañez J. Microvascular pedicle coverage with split thickness skin graft: Indications and surgical tips. Indian J Plast Surg [serial online] 2011 [cited 2019 Aug 19];44:528-9. Available from:


Free flap failure is a traumatic event for both the patients and the surgeon and complications can be reduced to a minimum by ensuring correct planning and execution of surgical technique and better postoperative care. In free tissue transfer, the surgeon must consider and avoid the various factors that can reduce blood flow across the anastomoses after microsurgical repair. Prevention of kinking of the vascular tension-free pedicle is imperative but not enough because inadequate and compressive soft tissue closure and scant protection around the microvascular anastomosis predispose to thrombosis and flap failure. [1],[2],[3] In addition, skin is often missing or insufficiently lax to allow primary closure or subcutaneous tunneling of the pedicle in complex tissue defects. [3]

Different techniques are described to obtain satisfactory and safe coverage of the microvascular anastomoses, including direct skin closure, skin grafting and flap coverage. [1],[2] In our experience, pointing out indications and surgical tips, split-thickness skin graft (STSG) is a safe method for permanent and/or transient vascular pedicle coverage. It can be used to avoid three compromising situations, namely pedicle compression, pedicle exposure and pedicle infection and hence we support the idea of covering the pedicle with split skin graft.

  1. Coverage of elective free flaps vascular pedicle to avoid tension closure: Our experience suggests that a skin graft is safer than direct closure with moderate tension, especially in lower limb and overweight patients. STSG must be very thin, can be left until final healing [Figure 1] or replaced if hematoma occurs underneth or excised after oedema resolution to allow direct closure; scar revision improves the aesthetic outcome.
    Figure 1: STSG healed on a free flap vascular pedicle used for an inferior limb reconstruction

    Click here to view
  2. Coverage of exposed vessels and nerves in replantation and complex revascularization: When these vital structures are exposed due to soft tissue debridement, a thin STSG can be used to temporarily cover them; the graft is removed and changed during next debridements until definitive flap coverage in the next few days. This undoubtedly is the best biological dressing.
  3. Coverage of vessels in deep wound sepsis: After radical debridement of all non viable tissues it is vital to protect the vascular and neural repairs or intact nerves nad vessels. Thin split thickness skin graft are used temporarily to cover them; the graft is removed and changed daily or every two days until infection resolves. A free flap can then be planned to close the wounds.
  4. Transient coverage of vein grafts or staged vascular loops. In case of STSG covering vein graft to artery, it is advisable to provide a more stable coverage as soon as possible to avoid bleeding from minor traumas. [4]

Proper microsurgical skills minimize complications but even a perfect anastomosis will fail if the pedicle is not well positioned and protected from compression, hematoma, kinking, tunneling or skin deficiency, all of which increase the risk of vessel thrombosis. To avoid these dynamic and positional complications, temporary or permanent STSG of the pedicle should be considered. After insetting a flap, a limb revascularization or replantation, the following mental check list for vessel positioning is useful: A tension free pedicle with normal forward flow, no redundancy (especially for veins), no compressions, no kinks, no twists and viable non-infected tissues around vascular or nerves repairs.

Although complications in free tissue transfer surgery cannot be completely prevented, STSG can aid in avoiding complications related to poor coverage of the pedicle.

 » References Top

1.Ohtsuka H, Hwang HY, Torigai K, Shioya N. Methods of vascular pedicle coverage. Ann Plast Surg 1979;3:315-20.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Riboh J, Nigriny J, Chong A, Page R, Chang J. Optimization of microsurgery: Improved coverage of the latissimus dorsi vascular pedicle with vascularized serratus fascia. Ann Plast Surg 2007;58:109-11.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Cavadas PC. Salvage of replanted upper extremities with major soft tissue complications. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg 2007;60:769-75.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Cavadas PC. Arteriovenous vascular loops in free flap reconstruction of the extremities. Plast Reconstr Surg 2008;121:514-20.  Back to cited text no. 4


  [Figure 1]

This article has been cited by
1 Anastomosis coverage by a subcutaneous periosteal flap in a 11-year-old child foot replantation: a technical note
Alessandro Thione,Pedro C. Cavadas,Concepción Lorca-García,Alberto Pérez-García
Injury. 2014;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article


Site Map  |  Home  |  Contact Us  |  Feedback  |  Copyright and Disclaimer
Online since 11th March '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow