Skin Graft Care

Learn what care is required for the Skin Graft procedure. Find out what you need to do prior to the procedure, how long it will take, if you will be required to stay in the hospital and what the postoperative care is.

Skin Graft Details

What to Expect Prior to Procedure

The wound will be cleaned with a clean water solution.


Depending on the surgery, you may receive:

  • Local anesthesia-The immediate area is numbed.
  • Regional anesthesia-A large area of your body will be numbed, but you will be awake.
  • General anesthesia -You will be asleep.

Description of Procedure

The wound will be measured. A pattern of the wound will be traced and then 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:

  • 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. It may also be abnormally pigmented (color differences). This type of graft may be meshed. This is a technique which 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.
  • 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 vascularization (blood vessels). Its use is somewhat limited.
  • 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 VAC may be placed for the first 3-5 days. This is a device that 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.

    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 medicine 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 recipient site to prolonged sunlight.
    • Inspect 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 (intense tightening) even after healing is complete.


    Learn what Skin Graft is
    What Is
    Learn what the procedure is. Find out how it is performed.
    Reasons For Skin Graft
    Reasons For
    Find out why and when this procedure should be done.
    Skin Graft Complications
    Learn about possible complications and what might increase the risk of them.
    Skin Graft Details
    What to Expect
    Find out how long it will take, what they will be doing and what to expect afterwards.
    Skin Graft Results
    What are the next steps and other possible tests needed after you have received the results.
    When to Contact Doctor about Skin Graft
    Call Your Doctor
    What to look out for and when to call your doctor after a procedure has been done.

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    Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright ©2014 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved. Source: EBSCO