Munson Health
Skin Graft

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by Chwistek M

Reasons for Procedure

A successful skin graft will result in transplanted skin adhering and growing into the recipient area. Cosmetic results may vary, based on factors such as the type of skin graft used and the recipient site.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The wound will be cleaned with an antiseptic.

Description of Procedure

The wound will be measured. A pattern of the wound will be traced and outlined over the donor site. The donor tissue will be removed with a scalpel or special harvesting machine.
There are three main types of skin graft techniques:
  1. Split-thickness graft—This is the removal of the top layer of skin and part of the middle layer. This type of graft allows the source site to heal more quickly. The graft is more fragile. There may be color differences. This type of graft may be meshed. This technique places multiple controlled holes in the graft. It will give it a mesh appearance. The mesh allows fluid to leak out from the underlying tissue bed. The meshed skin will be able to spread out over a much larger area of injury.
  2. Full-thickness graft—This is the removal and transfer of an entire area of skin. Although this type of graft requires stitches to heal the source site, the final outcome is usually better. Full-thickness grafts are usually recommended for areas where cosmetic appearance is important, such as the face. Full-thickness grafts can only be placed on areas of the body that have significant blood vessels. Its use is somewhat limited.
  3. Composite grafts—This is a combination of skin and fat, skin and cartilage, or the middle layer of skin and fat. It is used in areas that require three-dimensionality, such as the nose.
The graft will be placed on the damaged site. It will be fastened with stitches or staples.
A pressure bandage will be applied over the area. A wound vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) may be placed for the first 3-5 days. This device has suction and is used to control drainage. Initially, the graft will survive on oxygen and nutrients from the underlying tissue. Within 36 hours, new blood vessels begin to grow. New cells will grow from the graft to cover the damaged area with new skin.
Skin Graft
A split-thickness graft is fastened to the damaged site.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

How Long Will It Take?

This varies, depending on the size of the graft and extent and severity of the injury.

How Much Will It Hurt?

Harvesting skin grafts can be painful. Anesthesia should prevent most pain during the procedure. Talk to your doctor about medication to help manage pain after the procedure.

Average Hospital Stay

This varies depending on the reason for the graft, the size of the graft, as well as other care that is needed. For example, recovery from a burn or accident may take longer.

Postoperative Care

Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions , which may include:
  • Keep the recipient site clean and dry.
  • Avoid all trauma to the recipient site.
  • Do not expose the recipient site to prolonged sunlight.
  • Inspect the site for healing and good circulation, as shown by healthy pink coloration.
  • Follow instructions given for bandaging the grafted area. This will provide the area with appropriate support during the healing process. It will also help to prevent contractures that cause intense tightening even after healing is complete.


American Society for Dermatologic Surgery

DermNet NZ



Canadian Dermatology Association

The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons



Skin grafting. DermNet NZ website. Available at: . Accessed August 27, 2013.

Skin grafting and flap surgery. University of Miami Health System website. Available at: . Accessed August 27, 2013.


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