Another important advance from microsurgery is the use of free flaps for skin cover; that is, the transfer of skin to distant areas of the body that do not have suitable local flaps. In this procedure, the graft is removed from its normal blood supply, and the blood vessels are then joined to an undamaged artery and vein near the area of skin loss.
This is particularly valuable in the treatment of burns and other skin loss conditions, such as deep bed sores or chronic ulcers.
Although microvascular surgery is in its infancy and procedures can take a very long time, reconstructions can be done in one stage, and therefore patients usually only have one operation. Recent improvements in the technique have resulted in quicker transfers and success rates of up to 90 per cent have been reported, comparing favorably with other methods of reconstruction. Some plastic surgeons believe that, if the issue of tissue rejection is solved, the possibilities of tissue transfer could be unlimited.