We have used a rectangular surface coil and chemical shift imaging to conduct in vivo localized 31P NMR metabolic studies in a rat dorsal skin flap model. This approach permits regional comparisons without manipulation of either coil position or subject within the magnet bore. Both the PCr:Pi ratio (reflecting ischemia insult) and the PCr:ATP ratio (reflecting phosphagen reserves) decreased as functions of time and distance from the vascular pedicle. The maximum change was nearly 6-fold for the PCr:Pi ratio, and 3-fold for the PCr:ATP ratio. Signal contamination from subjacent muscle is constant and does not interfere with the metabolic evaluations of skin flaps. This technique may facilitate a better understanding of cutaneous metabolic derangements, such as burns and skin flaps used in reconstructive surgery, as well as studies of pharmacologic regimens developed for their treatment. It also holds potential for application in the study of congenital and neoplastic metabolic disorders of skin.