Skin Graft

A skin graft is a surgical procedure which involves transplanting skin. Healthy skin is taken from another area of the burn victim’s body and attached to the burn site. Skin graft operations are performed when burn victims experience severe burn injuries that cause death or permanent damage of the skin. Skin graft procedures help to reduce the treatment necessary for victims, as well as improve the burn site’s appearance and function.

What Is a Skin Graft?

In a skin graft, healthy skin is taken from another area on the burn victim’s body and attached to the burn area. The location of the healthy skin is referred to as a donor site. The selected donor site is typically an area hidden by clothing, such as the inner thigh or buttocks. Patients typically select these areas to reduce scar visibility to others.

Skin Graft Procedure

Before the skin graft is performed, the patient will be placed under general anesthesia. Once removed, the skin from the donor site is spread onto the area where it is to be transplanted. The graft may be held in place using a few methods. Staples, small stitches, or the gentle pressure of a well-padded dressing may be used. After skin removal, the donor site is typically covered for three to five days with a sterile dressing.

Types of Skin Graft

There are three main types of skin graft. These include split-thickness, full-thickness, and composite skin grafts. The type of skin graft performed depends on the severity and scope of the patient’s burn injuries.

Split-thickness Skin Graft

A split-thickness skin graft is the most common type performed. A split-thickness skin graft uses the top two layers of skin from the donor site: the outer epidermis and part of the underlying dermis. Split-thickness skin graft procedures may be compared to peeling a potato, due to the involvement of the outermost layers of skin.

Full-thickness Skin Graft

Full-thickness skin grafts involve the transplantation of the epidermis and the entire layer of the underlying dermis. Full-thickness skin graft procedures are typically more complicated. Donor sites for this type of graft may include the back, chest wall, or abdominal wall.

Skin Graft Risks

Skin graft procedures may pose certain risks, such as scarring in the transplanted tissue. Some patients may experience a decrease or complete loss of sensation in the transplanted area. Cosmetic issues such as skin discoloration and uneven skin surface may occur. In some cases, the skin will not heal properly. When this occurs, the patient may require one or more additional skin graft surgeries.

Skin grafts may pose the following severe risks:

  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Loss of grafted skin
  • Infection
  • Chronic pain, in some cases




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