People who are facing cancer or have suffered a injury may feel uncertain, stressed, and just want to get “back to normal.” Plastic surgery rises to this need and desire in a patient centered way—we try to make people feel like themselves again. One of the techniques we use is a flap, a way of moving tissue for another area of the body to help with reconstruction. A flap is connected to the blood supply for where it originally came (called a donor site), and then moved to a different site (called a recipient site). This technique is used to recreate a breast, an ear, or a fingertip. Here are some examples of flaps that surgeons use for reconstruction.
Breast reconstruction with a TRAM flap—The belly skin and six pack muscle (rectus) are left connected and tunneled under the chest skin to recreate the breast after a mastectomy
Nasal reconstruction with a forehead flap—A part of the forehead skin is rotated down to the nose to recreate the complicated, delicate areas of the nose.
Fingertip reconstruction with cross finger flap—The skin from an adjacent finger is left connected and release like the page of a book to provide padding and coverage for a fingertip amputation. This is then disconnected several weeks later.
I think the most important thing that patients should understand is that this journey is only possible through a team with the support of loved ones, doctors, and nurses. And the most important person of this team is the patient.