[Translated article] Versatility of Tunneled Island Flaps for the Reconstruction of Facial Defects

Versatilidad del «colgajo en isla tunelizado» para la reconstrucción de defectos faciales

Background and objective

Tunneled island flaps that transfer skin from a site adjacent to the wound are an effective way to reconstruct defects. These flaps provide good aesthetic and functional results and can be completed during a single surgical session, thus reducing complications. The procedure consists of taking an island of skin about the size of the surgical defect and moving it through a subcutaneous tunnel to cover the wound. We aimed to exemplify the use of these flaps in different regions of the face.

Material and methods

Retrospective descriptive study of 12 cases in which tunneled island flaps were used after removal of malignant tumors in different facial regions.


The tumors, all of which were basal cell carcinomas, were removed by means of conventional surgery from 9 patients and Mohs micrographic surgery from 3 patients. Histology demonstrated tumor-free margins after excision in all cases. None of the tumors recurred during a mean follow-up period of 25 months. All complications were minor and transient. There were 3 cases of trapdoor effect and 2 each of postsurgical bleeding, transient superficial flap necrosis, and slight protrusion of the pedicle. The final cosmetic and functional outcome was satisfactory in all cases.


Tunneled island flaps are particularly useful for repairing defects in the center of the face, where several anatomical structures converge. These flaps, which use donor skin that is similar to skin in the receptor site, can be used to close large defects in one-step procedures with only slight alteration of the facial architecture.

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