What are Skin Grafts: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results

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What​ are Skin Grafts: Overview, ⁣Benefits, and⁤ Expected Results

Skin grafts are​ a surgical procedure that⁤ involve taking⁢ healthy ⁢skin​ from ⁤one area of the body ‌and transplanting⁤ it onto a burned or damaged area of the body.‌ Skin ‍grafts are necessary‍ when skin has been lost in accidents, during ⁤burn ‍treatment, or in surgeries. The healthy skin is ​removed from⁣ an area that is hidden from view, such as the buttocks or inner thigh, and ⁢grafted onto​ the damaged area to replace‍ lost⁢ or damaged skin.

Types of Skin⁣ Grafts

There are three different types ‍of skin grafts that can ⁢be used: split-thickness skin graft (STSG), ​full-thickness skin graft (FTSG), and composite skin graft. All three types of skin grafts use skin from one area of the body ⁢to replace ⁢damaged‌ skin on⁢ another area.

Split-Thickness Skin Graft (STSG)

Split-thickness skin ​grafts consist⁤ of the top layers⁣ of skin, epidermis and some of the dermis.‌ This ​is a very common type of skin graft used because it allows the patient to heal quickly and with minimal scarring.

Full-Thickness Skin ⁤Graft (FTSG)

Full-thickness⁣ skin grafts use sections of skin that contain both the epidermis and the dermis layers of skin. With full-thickness grafts, the skin is taken ​from an area‌ of the body ⁤with little movement,⁣ like ‌the lower abdomen. This type of graft​ takes longer⁣ to heal⁣ and leaves a more visible scar than a split-thickness skin graft.

Composite Skin Graft

A composite skin ⁢graft is a ⁣combination of split-thickness and full-thickness skin grafts. ⁤The split-thickness portion helps heal the area quickly, and the full-thickness portion helps reduce the chance of infection and⁢ decreases​ scarring.

Overview of Skin Graft Surgical Procedure

Before a skin graft can be performed, the patient​ must undergo ⁤anesthesia to ensure they ⁢remain comfortable during the procedure. Once the patient is asleep, a surgical team will take the‌ healthy skin ‌from one area of the body and ⁤graft it onto the‌ burned or⁢ damaged area. Post-procedure, the patient ⁤is monitored for any signs of infection and the ⁢body is covered with a dressing that must be changed regularly.

Benefits of Skin Grafts

The ​primary​ benefit of skin grafts is that it can dramatically improve the appearance of the affected area. Skin⁤ grafts also reduce the risk ‍of infection and provide protection ⁢from ⁣further​ damage from the environment.⁣

Expected‍ Results from⁤ Skin Grafts

The primary ⁢result from skin grafts is improved​ appearance. In some cases, a ⁣slight scarring may occur, but this can be managed with proper ‍dressing and‍ post-operative care. After the ⁤grafted skin has healed, it can take ⁢some time for ‍the new skin to⁣ adjust to its​ environment. Once‍ the graft has been given⁢ a chance to heal, patients can ⁤expect⁢ improved ⁤skin texture and long-term benefits.

Managing Scarring After a Skin Graft

Scarring ⁢is one of the more common concerns for skin graft patients. To reduce the appearance of⁣ scars, there are several treatments and techniques that⁢ can be used.⁣ Some ⁢treatments require the use ⁣of steroid creams or gels to reduce inflammation, while others ‌rely on massage techniques and laser therapy. The most important thing to remember is that the ​scarring should ⁣fade over⁣ time and can be reduced with‌ proper care and post-operative management.

Practical Tips for‍ a Successful Skin Graft

When undergoing a skin ⁣graft procedure, ‍it is important to take all ​the‍ necessary steps to ensure a‌ successful outcome. Here are some practical tips to keep in⁤ mind: ​

  • Choose a qualified⁣ and experienced surgeon.

  • Follow all post-operative care instructions.

  • Get ‍plenty of rest.

  • Use sun protection.

  • Avoid any activities that may put undue stress or strain‍ on the skin graft area.

  • Discuss any concerns you may have⁢ with a medical professional.

Expected Timeline for Skin Graft Results

The amount of time it takes ⁢for a skin graft to heal and⁣ produce results depends on ‌several factors, including type of graft ⁤and age of the patient. Generally, it ⁣will ⁤take a few weeks for ‍the graft to⁣ heal and​ the‍ results⁤ will‌ be visible after⁢ several months. The most‍ important thing to keep in mind is that a successful outcome ​depends on following the instructions of the medical team ​closely.

Risks ⁢and⁤ Complications Associated‍ with ⁢Skin ‌Grafts

Skin grafts carry the same risks and ⁤complications as ⁣any other ‌surgical procedure. Some of the more⁢ common risks associated with skin grafts‌ are‌ infection, tissue​ necrosis, ​and scarring.


One of the ‍greatest risks associated with skin grafts is infection. Skin grafts open up ‍the body and ⁢create ⁤a⁢ gateway for bacteria to enter​ the body. It is ​important to adopt a regular cleaning regimen‌ and avoid any activities that could put strain⁤ on the grafted area.

Tissue Necrosis

Tissue ⁤necrosis is a condition in which ⁢the tissue of the graft dies due to ‍lack of blood flow or improper wound healing.⁤ Tissue necrosis can be caused by infection, inadequate healing of the graft, or the patient with an underlying medical condition. ⁢


Scarring ⁢is‌ an expected side effect of skin ⁤grafts as the ‌skin ⁢is being‌ transplanted from ‍one‍ area of ⁣the body to another. Scarring can be⁤ managed ⁤with proper⁤ care and post-operative management.


Skin grafts are a commonly used ‌surgical procedure⁢ for replacing damaged or⁢ lost ⁢skin due to burn ⁤injuries, accidents, or surgeries. There are‌ three main ⁤types of skin ​grafts that⁣ can be used: split-thickness skin grafts, full-thickness skin⁢ grafts, and composite skin grafts. ​Skin grafts offer numerous benefits, including improved appearance, reduced risk⁤ of infection, and⁣ protective against further damage from the environment. While there is some ⁤risk of scarring and other side effects, these can be‌ managed with proper post-operative management and care.

Definition and Overview

Skin grafts refer to a surgical procedure performed to replace skin with a new skin covering. Grafting usually becomes necessary due to injury or illness and is done either for temporary or permanent purposes. There are many ways to perform the procedure, but the most common is to take the patient’s own skin from a different body part and move it to the affected area. With proper care and preparation, complications can be easily minimized and even avoided.

Who should undergo and expected results

Skin grafting is used for a variety of purposes but is most beneficial for its medical uses, such as in the treatment of:

  • Severe burns
  • Non-healing wounds, such as diabetic ulcers and infected wounds
  • Large, open wounds that cannot be sutured
  • Skin cancers
  • Severely infected wounds
  • Open fractures of the legs

Covering burns is a crucial part of treatment because without an outer skin covering, there is a high risk of fluid loss and infection. Skin grafts also help prevent scarring. Wounds and burns that are left to heal without assistance may cause severe scars due to the skin’s tendency to contract during the healing process.

Aside from its medical uses, this procedure may also be performed for cosmetic plastic surgery or reconstructive surgery.

A skin graft is expected to improve the health of the wounded site and prevent any long-term complications often linked to complicated skin injuries. Within 36 hours, the blood vessels in the donor skin will begin to grow in the transplant area. At this point, the doctor can tell whether the procedure has been successful.

How the procedure works

The exact manner the procedure is done depends on the specific type of grafting involved. The two types of skin grafts, based on skin thickness, are:

  • Split-level thickness graft – In a split-level thickness grafting procedure, only the outermost layers of the skin, namely the dermis and the epidermis, are removed from the donor body part and transferred to the affected area. This type is more suitable when there is a large area to be covered. However, since only a thin layer of skin is moved, these grafts are more fragile and do not grow with the patient; this means that if a person receives a split-level thickness graft in childhood, he may require additional grafts over time. Split-level grafts have a pale and shiny appearance.
  • Full-thickness graft – In a full-thickness graft procedure, the skin graft taken from the donor site includes all the skin layers as well as the muscles and blood vessels underneath. This type is more suitable for smaller wounds that are more visible, such as those on the face. A full-thickness skin graft grows with and usually blends well with the rest of the patient’s skin. Common donor sites are the back and the abdomen, which then have to be covered with a split-thickness graft.

There are also three types of grafts based on the source of the new skin; these are:

  • Autograft – This is a graft taken from the patient’s own body, usually from the buttocks or inner thigh because these are easily hidden.
  • Allograft – Allografts are donor skin taken from cadavers and frozen for preservation. Allografts are used as temporary skin coverings because the immune system eventually rejects them.
  • Xenograft – Xenografts are donor skin taken from animals, usually pigs. Like an allograft, a xenograft will be rejected by the patient’s body within seven days and must thus be replaced with an autograft.

Skin grafts are performed in the operating room of hospitals, and always require general anesthesia so that the patient sleeps through the procedure without feeling any pain. In a split-thickness graft, the donor skin is removed using a dermatome, a special instrument that can slice tissue thinly. In a full graft, the skin and tissue are removed using a scalpel.

The procedure typically follows the same steps:

  1. Anesthetizing the patient
  2. Rinsing the wound with a saline solution or diluted antiseptic and removing any dead tissue
  3. Stopping the flow of blood either by tying off the blood vessels or with the help of epinephrine, a medication that makes blood vessels constrict
  4. Harvesting the donor skin, which is usually enlarged by 3 to 5 percent to prepare for possible skin shrinkage
  5. Placing the graft in the wounded area and suturing it in place
  6. Dressing the wound to protect it during the healing process
  7. Covering the donor site with a split-thickness graft (if a full-thickness graft was taken from it)

Recovery from a grafting procedure may take several months. During the first 10 days, patients are advised to remain in bed, especially if the grafts are in the leg area. For the next 2 to 3 weeks, any activities that will put pressure on or stretch the transplant area should be avoided. For the succeeding months, the graft needs to be supported with bandages or stockings to help reduce the risk of contractures. It must also be moisturized or lubricated with mineral oil to keep the skin from drying. This is because grafted skin do not have oil and sweat glands to lubricate them.

Possible risks and complications

There are a number of possible complications that may arise both during and after a skin grafting procedure. These include:

  • Allergic response to medications or anesthetics
  • Severe bleeding
  • Infection
  • Breathing issues
  • Swelling

If the procedure involves an allograft, there is also a risk of the transmission of an infectious disease from the donor patient.

There is also a risk that the graft will fail due to:

  • Improper preparation of the wounded site
  • Inadequate blood flow
  • Presence of an infection
  • Formation of hematoma

For a skin graft to be successful and for complications to be avoided, it is important that the wounded area:

  • Has adequate blood supply
  • Has not been exposed to or damaged by radiation treatment
  • Is free from any dead tissue or bacterial infection

Thus, if there is any dead tissue, it should first be removed through debridement. Likewise, if there is an active infection, it should first be treated prior to the skin graft procedure.


  • Scherer-Pietramaggiori SS, Pietramaggiori G, Orgill DP. Skin graft. In: Neligan PC, ed. Plastic Surgery. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2013:chap 17.


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