BACKGROUND: Near-infrared spectroscopy can detect changes in tissue oxygenation postoperatively that predict flap necrosis. The authors hypothesized that this technology can be applied along with topical nitroglycerin to measure an improvement in tissue oxygenation that correlates with tissue salvage. METHODS: Dorsal, random pattern flaps measuring 10 × 3 cm were raised using Sprague-Dawley rats. Tissue oxygenation was measured after flap elevation in 10 locations using the ViOptix Intra.Ox. Animals were divided into three groups that received 30 mg of topical nitroglycerin daily, twice-daily, or not at all. Oxygenation measurements were repeated on postoperative day 1 and animals were euthanized on day 7 and evaluated for tissue necrosis. RESULTS: Tissue necrosis was greatest in controls (51.3 mm) compared to daily (28.8 mm) and twice-daily nitroglycerin (18.8 mm; p = 0.035). Three flap perfusion zones were identified: healthy (proximal, 50 mm), necrotic (distal, 20 mm), and watershed. Immediate postoperative tissue oxygenation was highest in healthy tissue (57.2 percent) and decreased to 33.0 and 19.3 percent in the watershed and necrotic zones, respectively (p < 0.001). One day after treatment with nitroglycerin, oxygenation in the healthy zone did not increase significantly (mean difference, -1.5 percent). The watershed (17.8 percent; p < 0.001) and necrotic zones (16.3 percent; p <0.001) did exhibit significant improvements that were greater than those measured in control tissues (7.9 percent; both p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Serial perfusion assessment using the ViOptix Intra.Ox measured a significant improvement in flap oxygenation after treatment with topical nitroglycerin. Within the watershed area of the flap, this increase in tissue oxygenation was associated with the salvage of ischemic tissue.