Skin grafts

About skin graft surgery

Skin grafting is a type of surgery involving the transplantation of skin. The transplanted tissue is called a skin graft. It is is often used to treat:

  • Specific surgeries that may require skin grafts for healing to occur – most commonly removal of skin cancers
  • Extensive wounds or trauma
  • Burns
  • Areas of extensive skin loss due to infection

Surgical removal (excision or debridement) of the skin such as for skin cancers may require skin grafting. Usually this is if it is a large defect or on the scalp or the front of your leg where there is little skin elasticity to cover the excised skin. The grafting serves two purposes: It closes the wound and over time improves the appearance of the area of the body which receives the skin graft.

What does skin graft surgery involve?

There are two types of skin grafts:

  • Split skin graft - a thin layer is shaved from a healthy part of the body ( usually thigh ), like peeling a potato. It feels like a bad graze for the first couple of days on the donor site.
  • Full thickness - involves pitching and cutting skin away from the donor section. This surgery leaves only a scar line on the donor section. For full thickness skin grafts, the donor section will often heal much more quickly and is less painful than a split thickness skin graft.

Following a skin graft.

There will be two bandaged areas following surgery, the donor area and the incision site.

Post operative instructions are given on how to protect the graft with bandages/slings depending on where the graft is placed.

  • General graft care includes -- Keeping area dry and clean for first 5-7 days. Dressing change by nurse after that. Donor area dressing change after 10-14 days ( if donor area thigh for STSG )
  • Specific area care for skin grafts . Grafts on legs - Elevation of leg as much as possible in first week. Limited walking possible but no driving for 1-2 weeks. Grafts on hands / arms - Elevation in sling for 1 week. No driving for 1-2 weeks and not much work with the involved hand for the same period. Grafts on head and neck - Avoid bending forward for first week.