Management of the radial forearm free flap donor site using a topically applied tissue expansion device

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The purpose of this study was to prospectively assess clinical outcomes in patients undergoing a new method of donor site management for radial forearm free flaps.


177 patients underwent reconstruction of ablative defects of the head and neck using a radial forearm free-flap. All patients had topical tissue expansion tapes applied to their forearms preoperatively. Closure rates, healing time and complications associated with the technique were assessed.


Ninety-five percent of patients had their donor sites closed primarily with a locally harvested full thickness skin graft. Complications related to the tissue expansion device included a loss of device adhesion (19.3%) requiring reapplication and minor pruritic reactions (4.1%).


This system of donor site management has resulted in a significant reduction in the requirement of a split thickness skin graft for coverage of the donor site in a radial forearm free flap without any significant economic cost or patient morbidity.

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