Micro vascular free tissue transfers

Micro vascular free tissue transfer is a highly specialized reconstructive procedure in which tissue is taken from one area of the body to reconstruct another body part. The tissue taken may be skin, muscle, bone or a combination of these.


Micro vascular free tissue transfer is indicated to reconstruct complex defects in the head and neck following surgical removal of the jaw, tongue, and floor of the mouth. This type of surgery can also be used to treat side effects caused due to cancer treatment such as the aesthetic appearance of the face and neck or improper functioning of speech, sight, smell, and swallowing.


During a free tissue transfer procedure, you will be under general anesthesia. Your doctor will harvest tissue from your body and attach it at the site to be repaired. The tissues are attached along with their blood vessels so that they can function as normal tissue.

Free transfers can be of several types including:

  • Free Muscle Transfer: In this procedure a muscle from your back or abdominal region is used for reconstruction. Muscles are particularly useful for promoting healing of complex wounds associated with the central nervous system.
  • Free Bone Transfer: In this procedure most often the calf bone from the leg or a rib bone is used as both locations allow transfer of a good amount of bone volume, muscle and skin. Bone defects are the most complex and the transfer of the bones is done with precise alignment.
  • Free Skin and Fat Transfer: The skin and fat tissues for this type of transfer are extracted from the forearms or the thighs as there is a huge abundance of tissues in this area. These are used for reconstruction of defects in the head and neck area.


After the surgery you may remain sedated for the night and awoken the next morning. Since the surgery was in your head or neck, a tube will be inserted in your neck to help you breathe. However you will not be able to speak until the tube is removed. You will be in the ICU for about 2 days and another 5 to 7 days in the ward for monitoring to ensure a complete recovery. Your stitches will be removed 7 to 10 days after the surgery. During your stay at the hospital, doctors will monitor the blood supply to the reconstructed site and nearby tissues frequently to ensure proper healing.


As with all surgeries, there are risks involved. Free tissue transfer procedures may carry complications such as swelling, difficulty in breathing or trouble swallowing. However, one of the major risks of free tissue transfer procedures is loss of the flap due to arterial or venous clots. Such clots in the blood vessels can cause the death of the tissue (necrosis). Any ongoing infection at the site of transfer can also lead to loss of the flap.



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