Microsurgery-Free Tissue Transplants
A free tissue transplant is a piece of tissue that has been surgically removed from one part of the body and transplanted to another part of the body. This tissue is more than just a skin graft. It will also contain blood vessels and frequently muscle that can be utilized to heal the area where it is transplanted.
A free tissue transplant is an elective surgery that a patient may decide to undergo in order to restore form and function to an injured part of the body or to correct a disfigurement.
Who Can Benefit From Free Tissue Transplants?
Free tissue transplants are used to repair wounds or disfigurements that involve deeper tissue than just the skin. These can be caused by trauma or by disease, such as diabetes or cancer. The doctor will tell you if your wound(s) merit this type of surgery and will discuss all options with you.
What is the Procedure Like?
Free tissue transplants are performed in a hospital, and you will be asleep for the surgery under a general anesthetic. The length of your surgery and the number of days you must remain in the hospital will depend entirely on your individual circumstances. In general, however, patients remain in the hospital for five days after surgery. You will be given IV antibiotics during the surgery, and the doctor will tell you exactly what you can expect after your procedure.
The doctor will choose to take tissue from a part of your body that is best suited for the part of the body which needs the transplant. For example, a transplant on the hand will require different kind of tissue than a transplant on the face. The healthy tissue is removed from the donor area of your body, and the wounded tissue is removed from the damaged area. The healthy tissue is then sewn onto the damaged area, including the nerves, blood vessels, and muscle. The donor and transplant sites will be bandaged, and you may have to wear a dressing on a larger area in order to help hold the tissue in place during the healing process.
What Can I Expect During Recovery?
You will need someone to drive you home after your hospital stay, and you will probably need help around the house for awhile. If the transplant took place on your arm or leg, for example, you may need help with household tasks during the entire healing process. The doctor will monitor your progress during follow-up visits, and you will be instructed how to wash and change your dressings. You may not be able to bathe for a few days, and you will experience some swelling, bruising, numbness, and pain during the healing process.
The doctor will let you know if elevating the affected area is advised. You will also be given prescriptions for pain medication and an antibiotic. The amount of time it takes to heal varies from patient to patient. It may be several months before you will be able to see the final results of your surgery. Physical therapy may also be necessary to restore proper movement, especially if muscle has been transplanted.
What Are the Risks of Free Tissue Transplants?
Wounds are risky in and of themselves, and free tissue transplants help to restore function and normal appearance to damaged tissues. It is a very safe procedure, but surgery always carries some risk. These risks include infection, scarring, and blood clots or bleeding, all of which can be treated. In some cases, the transplanted tissue may not survive the transfer process, leading to the need for additional reconstruction.