Transplanting skin from one area of the body to another is known as skin grafting. There are many different reasons for a skin graft. It’s used to help one part of the body with severe damage to the protective tissue.
Here’s what you need to know about skin grafting:
Reasons for a Skin Graft
A skin graft may be necessary if part of your body loses its protective covering. The purpose of the skin graft is to improve both the appearance and function of the area that requires the graft. Removing the damaged skin and replacing it with healthy skin will decrease the treatment and hospital time needed. Some of the common reasons for a skin graft include:
- Deep Burns
- Open wounds
- Bedsores or skin ulcers
- Skin cancer surgery
Skin Grafting Process
Skin grafting must be done in a hospital. The patient must be under general anesthesia, meaning they will not be awake or conscious during the procedure.
Split-thickness grafts are used to cover large areas. For this graft, the top layer of skin is removed (the epidermis). A portion of the deeper skin layer, the dermis, is also taken from a donor site. The common harvest areas are the abdomen, buttocks, back, or outer thigh.
A full-thickness graft removes the entire epidermis and dermis from the donor site. The grafts removed are smaller pieces of skin commonly extracted from the collarbone area, forearm, abdomen, or groin. These are used to cover small, highly visible wounds.
The basic steps of a skin graft are:
- A surgeon removes the skin from the donor site.
- The surgeon places the skin graft over the transplant area and secures it with a surgical dressing, stitches, or staples.
- Split-thickness grafts are “meshed”, meaning the doctor punctures several holes to stretch the skin.
- The doctor covers the donor area with a dressing to cover it without sticking.
The hospital staff will carefully monitor you post-surgery, giving you pain medications as necessary. For a split-thickness graft, you will likely need to remain in the hospital for a few days. Once you can leave the hospital, you will be given painkillers and instructions for managing the site. The donor site may be able to heal within two weeks, but the skin graft will take at least a month. During the healing process, avoid stretching or injuring the site until your doctor instructs you to resume regular activities.
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