Reconstructing Forearm Free Flap Donor Sites Using Full-Thickness Skin Grafts Harvested from the Ipsilateral Arm

Natalie A. Krane, Alia Mowery, James Azzi, Daniel Petrisor, Mark K. Wax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To compare morbidity and aesthetic outcomes of full-thickness skin grafts (FTSGs) and split-thickness skin grafts (STSGs) in the reconstruction of the forearm free flap donor site. Study Design: Case series, retrospective chart review. Setting: Institutional microvascular database. Subjects and Methods: Subjects who underwent forearm free flaps and FTSGs for donor site reconstruction from April 2016 to November 2017 were included. FTSGs were obtained from the donor forearm with a proximal S-shaped incision, thereby avoiding additional wound creation. Morbidity outcomes were compared to 68 consecutive patients with STSG reconstruction from January 2009 to May 2010. Complications, including tendon exposure, subjective functional impairment, complete graft loss, partial graft loss, infection, paresthesias, and hematoma/seroma, were evaluated, as were aesthetic outcomes. Results: Sixty-eight patients underwent FTSG reconstruction. No significant differences between FTSGs and STSGs were demonstrated in terms of graft loss ≥40% (4% vs 4%, P = 1.000), partial graft loss (<40%) (29% vs 40%, P =.207), tendon exposure (9% vs 12%, P =.573), infection (15% vs 13%, P =.805), paresthesias (12% vs 7%, P =.382), subjective functional impairment (0% vs 2%, P =.316), or hematoma/seroma (2% vs 0%, P =.316). Aesthetic outcomes were better in the FTSG group compared to the STSG group, as determined by both patients (P =.004) and surgeon (P <.001). Conclusions: Our results advocate for the consideration of FTSGs in the reconstruction of the forearm free flap donor site given superior aesthetic results without additional donor site morbidity or additional wound creation when compared to STSGs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020



  • free flap
  • full-thickness skin graft
  • microvascular
  • radial forearm free flap
  • reconstruction
  • split-thickness skin graft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology

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