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Skin grafting

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Skin grafting is a surgical procedure in which a patch of the healthy skin from a donor site is taken and grafted over the damaged one. There are several purposes behind skin grafting and the outcome is quite promising.

Why is skin grafting done?

Skin grafting is the only technique to reconstruct your skin that has been lost due to skin injury, illness or burns.

Some conditions under which skin grafting may be considered are:

  • Accidental damage of the skin wherein inner layers of muscle and bones is exposed due to deep wounds
  • An infection that has damaged the skin due to purpurafulminans or necrotizing fasciitis
  • To restore hair to areas of alopecia
  • A  surgical option for skin cancer
  • Severe burns
  • In case of cutaneous ulcers, diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers or chronic bed sores where the skin refuses to heal
  • For cosmetic reasons to get away with an unsightly appearance of skin

How is skin grafting performed?

There are two techniques of skin grafting:

In case of split-thickness graft, the skin patch is removed from the first two layers of the skin i.e. the epidermis and a portion ofthe dermis. This is usually opted for when a large area of the skin needs to be grafted. The skin is processed through a surgical tool called the skin Mesher which creates apertures in the skin and expands it many more times than its original size.

The second technique is full-thickness graftwhich is usually performed to heal deepwounds. In this case, the donor skin includes the entire dermis, i.e. along with the muscles and blood vessels and the epidermis as well.

Usually, covered parts of the body like the hip or thighs are selected for performing split thickness graft, while for full thickness graft the donor skin is taken from your chest or abdominal wall. The latter is a more complicated surgery, although the basic technique remains the same- i.e. removing the skin from the donor site and stitching it over the reconstruction site, followed by covering and dressing the donor area.

How to prepare for skin grafting?

Your doctor will certainly schedule the surgery after conducting several tests. Some modifications might be suggested regarding the dosage and schedule of your medicines, especially, if you are taking blood thinners. You may be asked not to eat or drink anything on the day of the surgery. Any other preparations required, will be explained by your doctor.

How does it feel like?

Skin grafting is performed under general anesthesia and you won’t feel any pain. The medicine will be administered through an IV drip line.

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What to expect after skin grafting?

The skin heals by re-epithelialisation from the dermis and surrounding skin. Your doctor will monitor you closely for stabilization of your body. The biggest apprehension after a skin graft is whether your body accepts or rejects the graft. The re-epithelialisation process, i.e. formation of blood vessels to connect the graft on the skin takes around 36 hours. Another skin graft would be recommended is the graft is rejected.

You would be retained in the hospital for 1-2 weeks of undergoing a full thickness graft and the recovery period would be 2-4 weeks.

Stretching, pulling, or touching the site of operation is strictly denied until you have healed completely. You can perform only those physiotherapy exercises shown by your doctor.

Are there any risks associated with the procedure?

Some risks of skin grafting, could be delayed healing of the graft, bleeding and infection of skin, increased or decreased sensitivity of the skin and scarring.

In about 2 days the body starts regrowing new blood vessels that supply blood to the skin graft. In most cases, the grafts heal well and do not have grave cosmetic problems. Second graft is needed only when the previous graft refuses to heal. Speak to your doctor regarding skin grafting in detail to clear doubts, if any.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: March 17, 2015

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