Injuries or burns that affect a large area of the body are two of the main reasons a person may need a skin graft. When the skin has been damaged or is gone, a skin graft may be needed to help new skin grow in place. It is a common but complex procedure. Skin grafts are pieces of skin that are taken from other areas on the patient’s body, a donor, or even another species such as a pig. They are placed on the area of the body that is missing skin and allowed to grow to cover the tissue there.
Why a Person May Need a Skin Graft
A person may need a skin graft if they are missing skin from an area of their body. The missing skin may be a result of an injury, congenital disability, or burn. In most cases, skin grafts are only used if the skin is not capable of naturally growing to fill in the spot. They may also be used on larger areas that are missing skin. People who are born with skin issues may also receive skin grafts.
Preparing for a Skin Graft
Skin grafts are major procedures, and there are some risks involved with them. Doctors will make sure the patient is prepared to care for the skin graft and is capable of receiving it. The area where the skin graft will go must be clean and free of any infections. If there is dead skin or other tissue in the area, it may have to be removed before the skin graft can be applied. Every patient is different, and it is up to the doctor to decide how that patient should prepare for the procedure.
During the Skin Graft Procedure
During the procedure, the wound site is prepared, and the healthy skin is harvested from a donor or another area of the patient’s body. The patient is given anesthesiaso they do not feel the healthy skin removal or the graft being applied to the wound. The site where the healthy skin is harvested is dressed so it can regenerate and healthy skin can grow in place. The donor skin is then applied to the wound. Doctors may use sutures to apply the skin graft or a mesh device that helps it adhere to the skin and around the wound. Doctors then dress the grafted skin and allow the patient to recover.
Skin Graft Recovery
Skin graft recovery is a lengthy process. Since the skin is the body’s barrier of protection, infections can easily occur. Patients must follow the doctor’s orders to ensure that the skin graft heals properly and that there are no complications. The donor site also needs to heal properly. Patients will see their doctors on a regular basis for checkups. The doctor will make sure the skin graft site and donor site are both free from infection and are healing properly.
Skin Graft Prognosis
The prognosis for a skin graft is good for most people. Some people will suffer scarring on the graft site and the donor site. Most people recover completely within a month. Complications are rare but can happen. They include: