- Allograft—skin taken from another human source, such as a cadaver
- Xenograft—skin taken from an animal source
- Synthetic tissue
Reasons for Procedure
To promote healing of:
- Large burns
- Large wounds
- Venous ulcers
- Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores
- Diabetic ulcers
- To reconstruct skin removed during surgery, such as following breast cancer surgery or for a serious skin infection
- Graft failure
- Infection at either the donor or recipient site
- Poor healing
- Increased or decreased sensation at the recipient site
- Hair may not grow on recipient site
- Graft tissue contracts, interfering with limb movement
- A collection of blood outside of a vessel, known as a hematoma
- Differences in skin coloration
- Age: newborns and infants, or ≥ 60 years old
- Poor overall health
- Use of certain medications
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Local anesthesia—the immediate area is numbed
- You may also be given IV drugs to help you relax and reduce anxiety.
- Regional anesthesia—a large area of your body will be numbed, but you will be awake
- General anesthesia —you will be asleep
Description of Procedure
- Split-thickness graft—This is the removal of the top layer of skin and part of the middle layer. This type of graft allows the source site to heal more quickly. The graft is more fragile. There may be color differences. This type of graft may be meshed. This technique places multiple controlled holes in the graft. It will give it a mesh appearance. The mesh allows fluid to leak out from the underlying tissue bed. The meshed skin will be able to spread out over a much larger area of injury.
- Full-thickness graft—This is the removal and transfer of an entire area of skin. Although this type of graft requires stitches to heal the source site, the final outcome is usually better. Full-thickness grafts are usually recommended for areas where cosmetic appearance is important, such as the face. Full-thickness grafts can only be placed on areas of the body that have significant blood vessels. Its use is somewhat limited.
- Composite grafts—This is a combination of skin and fat, skin and cartilage, or the middle layer of skin and fat. It is used in areas that require three-dimensionality, such as the nose.
|A split-thickness graft is fastened to the damaged site.|
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How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Average Hospital Stay
- Keep the recipient site clean and dry.
- Avoid all trauma to the recipient site.
- Do not expose the recipient site to prolonged sunlight.
- Inspect the site for healing and good circulation, as shown by healthy pink coloration.
- Follow instructions given for bandaging the grafted area. This will provide the area with appropriate support during the healing process. It will also help to prevent contractures that cause intense tightening even after healing is complete.
Call Your Doctor
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the wounds
- Headache, muscle aches, lightheadedness, or general ill feeling
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
- Any new symptoms
American Society for Dermatologic Surgery http://www.asds.net
DermNet NZ http://dermnetnz.org
Canadian Dermatology Association http://www.dermatology.ca
The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.ca
Skin grafting. DermNet NZ website. Available at: http://dermnetnz.org/procedures/graft.html . Accessed August 27, 2013.
Skin grafting and flap surgery. University of Miami Health System website. Available at: http://surgery.med.miami.edu/plastic-and-reconstructive/skin-grafting-flap-surgery . Accessed August 27, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013 -
- Update Date: 09/30/2013 -