Authors of section


Nicolas Homsi, Paulo Rodrigues, Gregorio Sánchez Aniceto, Beat Hammer, Scott Bartlett

Executive Editors

Edward Ellis III, Eduardo Rodriguez

General Editor

Daniel Buchbinder

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Temporalis muscle flap

1. Introduction

The choice of a temporalis muscle flap is based on the size of the defect, arc of rotation of the flap, and surgeon preference.

The temporalis muscle flap provides a predictable vascularized tissue reconstruction. The donor site may be treated with an alloplast to conceal the temporal hollow deformity.

temporalis muscle flap

2. Preparation of the recipient site

The mucosal wound margins are trimmed to allow for a raw edge to suture of the temporalis flap.

temporalis muscle flap
temporalis muscle flap

3. Reconstruction

Exposure of the temporalis flap

A Y-type incision is made starting in the pretragal area extending superiorly to the temporalis region. The vertical third of the incision is split into a Y to gain adequate exposure. The depth of the incision goes to the temporalis muscle fascia.

Alternatively a coronal incision can be used.

temporalis muscle flap

Depending on the amount of muscle necessary to restore the palatal defect, parallel incisions are made with electrocautery through the temporalis muscle down to bone ensuring that a branch of the deep temporal vessels is captured.

temporalis muscle flap

Starting from the top edge of the temporalis muscle, the flap is elevated off the skull, down to the level of the zygomatic arch.

temporalis muscle flap

To replace the missing temporalis muscle, placing either acellular dermis or abdominal fat and suturing it to the adjacent muscle will recreate the temporal contour.

An alternative is to use a porous polyethylene prosthesis screwed to the temporal bone, filling the defect.

temporalis muscle flap

Insetting of the flap

The flap is transferred into its preplanned position by tunneling it deep to the zygomatic arch to seal the defect. Great care is taken not to create undue torsion or tension within the pedicle.

A zygomatic arch osteotomy facilitates the rotation of the flap into the oral cavity.

maxilla oronasal oroantral fistulae

If necessary, the osteotomized arch can then be replaced and plated using miniplates and screws.

Note: Special attention must be paid when exposing the zygomatic arch to avoid injury to the facial nerve.

temporalis muscle flap

The flap is sutured to the buccal and palatal mucosal margins with resorbable sutures to create a water tight seal.

temporalis muscle flap

The donor site incision is closed in layers with deep absorbable sutures and 5-0 permanent suture.

A suction drain is used to avoid fluid collections.

temporalis muscle flap

4. Aftercare following corrections of secondary deformities of the alveolus and palate


  • Analgesia as necessary
  • Antibiotics (many surgeons use perioperative antibiotics). There is no clear advantage of any one antibiotic but evidence supports their use for 24h. The spectrum should be according to the existing bacterial flora, especially in the combined intra oral and paranasal sinuses.
  • Steroids may help with postoperative edema.
  • Regular perioral and oral wound care has to include disinfectant mouth rinse, lip care, etc.
  • Antibiotic ointment is used on skin incision (when indicated) for 72 hours.

Reconstruction with free flap

When a free flap is utilized, it should be regularly monitored to ensure vascular integrity. Physical examination, assessing the flap color, turgidity, and capillary refill should be routine for at least the first 48 hours postoperatively. Hand-held Doppler probes can be used to assess blood flow. In case of doubt of the vitality of the flap, pin-prick assessment with a 25 gauge needle to look for bright red bleeding. In cases of buried flaps, an implantable Doppler placed just distal to the venous anastomosis can be utilized.
Radial forearm free flap
The radial forearm free flap donor site should be closed with a skin graft and a bolster placed over the area. The arm is then cast or placed in a volar splint for 7 days prior to removal to ensure graft take. If bone is taken and the radius plated, appropriate follow-up with an orthopedic or hand specialist should be arranged.

Fibula free flap
After a fibula free flap, the donor lower leg should be cast with the ankle slightly dorsiflexed for 5 days. The patient can touch-down their body weight as tolerated. After the cast is removed they can ambulate and work with physical therapy to optimize leg function. A splint should be placed to keep the foot flexed when in bed.

Scapula free flap
Flaps from the subscapular system require no particular rehabilitation care but closed suction drains should remain until a minimal output is still draining to avoid seroma formation.

Rectus abdominis and iliac crest
Rectus abdominis and iliac crest donor sites require that the patient not strain or lift heavy objects for at least 4 weeks to avoid hernia formation.

Anterolateral thigh
Patients should avoid climbing stairs for 2-4 weeks after surgery. They should also be observed for seroma formation at the wound bed.

Wound care

Remove sutures from skin after approximately 7 days if non resorbable sutures have been used. Moisturizing lotion should be used on the skin wounds to minimize excessive scarring after sutures are removed.
Avoid sun exposure and tanning to skin incisions for several months.


Diet depends on the correction method.

For patients with free flap reconstruction of the maxilla, a feeding tube is placed during sugery allowing the patient to be kept nil per os for 5-7 days. If issues develop with velopharyngeal insufficiency or dysphagia, assessment by a speech and swallowing rehabilitation specialist may be indicated. When the lateral nasal wall is reconstructed, especially when a bulky soft tissue flap is used, the nasal airway should be stented with gauze packing or a merocel sponge for five days.

Oral hygiene

Patients with intraoral incisions and/or wounds must be instructed in appropriate oral hygiene procedures. A soft toothbrush (dipped in warm water to make it softer) should be used to clean the surfaces of the teeth. Chlorhexidine oral rinses should be prescribed and used at least 3 times a day to help sanitize the mouth. For larger debris, a 1:1 mixture of hydrogen peroxide/chlorhexidine can be used. The bubbling action of the hydrogen peroxide helps remove debris.

Clinical follow-up

Typically the patients are seen in clinical follow-up one week after discharge, and then on a weekly basis until such time the clinician determines that less frequent follow ups are needed.