The radiopaque contrast medium diatrizoate, has a vasodilator effect so that it is used in sudden-deafness secondary ischemic injury. However, ischemic problems are encountered, especially when longer flaps are elevated. A longer flap also has ischemic and relatively ischemic tissue, and may obtain some benefit from contrast media. Forty male Sprague-Dawley rats, weighing about 350-400 g, were used, and randomly divided into four groups (n = 10 rats each group): group 1 was the control, group 2 the diatrizoate, group 3 the iopamidol, and group 4 the iothalamate group. A rectangular 3 x 10 cm caudally based dorsal skin flap was elevated, and sutured back to its original place. In the control group, no pharmacologic agent was administered. Sodium-meglumine-diatrizoate 10 mg/kg/day was administered parenterally in the first experimental group (diatrizoate group); iopamidol 10 mg/kg/day in the second experimental group (iopamidol group); and iothalamate sodium 10 mg/kg/day in the third experimental group (iothalamate group) for 7 postoperative days. On postoperative day 7, all flaps were photographed, and the area of flap survival was measured by using a polar planimeter. The results were statistically evaluated with the Kruskal-Wallis test and Mann-Whitney U-test (P = 0.05). The mean flap survival ranged from 79% in the iopamidol group to 83% in the diatrizoate group, and was significantly greater in all experimental groups (P < 0.05) compared to the control group (59%). There was no significant difference between experimental groups (P < 0.05). We believe that radiopaque contrast media have a beneficial effect in improving skin flap viability when distal flap necrosis is a potential complication of longer flaps. (C) 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.