How does the skin heal with a skin graft?

What is a skin graft?

A portion of healthy skin is taken from one area of your body (called the donor site) and moved to another area (called the recipient site). In skin cancer, such grafts cover the areas that have been left bare by the surgical removal of portions of the skin. The skin is usually taken from the back or thigh or other part of the body and is stitched to the injured part. The graft is nourished by small arteries from the tissue surrounding the injured area.

Are there different ways of doing skin grafts?

There are several different ways:

• Pinch grafts: 

Small pieces, usually about 1/4 inch in diameter, are taken from the uppermost layer of the skin and spaced in the area missing the skin. The small pieces grow in the new location and spread out to cover the bare area. This method is used usually in very small areas such as the eyelid.

• Split thickness grafts: 

These are sheets of skin, sometimes measuring several inches in diameter, taken from the uppermost layer of flat surfaces such as the back, the thigh, or the stomach. This method is used when a larger area needs to be covered. Stitches are taken around the edges of the grafts and compression bandages are put on top.

• Full thickness grafts: 

These contain all the layers of the skin but not the fat tissue which lies underneath. They are used in areas subject to friction or in weight bearing areas. The grafts are cut so that they will exactly cover the bare area.

• Pedicle grafts: 

One portion of the skin remains attached to the donor site while the rest is transferred to a recipient site. These are used to cover defects on the face when a wide area of skin has been removed along with the tumor or to cover a finger or hand with new skin.

Melanoma Skin Graft

Are skin graft operations dangerous?

No. The doctor must be sure that both the donor site and the recipient site are free from infection. The graft must be evenly applied and held in place snugly.

Is it painful to have a skin graft?

No. There is usually only a little pain and a burning sensation in the area from which the skin has been taken and no pain at the site where it is applied.

What is used to cover the skin graft when it is done?

Firm bandages are used to keep the graft snugly applied to the area. The dressing is not changed for 1 or 2 weeks, until the grafted skin is living and growing in its new location.

Does the grafted skin look like the normal skin?

This depends upon where the graft is taken from. Sometimes it might be a different color and texture. The graft will develop sensation after a few months. The new skin can get sunburned but often it does not get as dark as the surrounding skin. The new skin will grow hair only if it grew hair in its original location.

What kind of doctor would do a skin graft?

It depends upon the size and the type of grafting which needs to be done. Facial procedures are done by dermatologists, otolaryngologists, maxillofacial surgeons, and plastic surgeons.


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