A skin grafting procedure involves a plastic surgeon removing skin from one area of the body and relocating it to another area. This movement of skin (also known as transplanting) is a common solution for individuals who have lost portions of their skin due to severe burns, injury, and illness.
There are two types of skin grafts: split-thickness grafts and full-thickness grafts.
- The first type, split-thickness, utilizes healthy skin taken from the epidermis (the top skin layer) and part of the dermis (the skin layer below the epidermis). Prime harvesting (or donor) areas include the front/outer thighs, the abdomen, the butt, and the back. This graft type is generally used to cover large areas of the body and once these “graft sites” have healed, the new skin will appear shinier, smoother,and paler.
- The second type, full-thickness, utilizes healthy skin from the entire epidermis and the entire dermis. Because this graft requires removing more of the skin layers than the previous type, smaller portions of skin are taken. They are taken from donor areas in which the leftover skin can be pulled together to close the gap. These areas include the abdomen, groin, forearm, and around the collarbone. Because this graft is often more precise and more cosmetically appealing, it is used to repair areas of the body that are highly visible, such as the face.
Typical candidates for skin grafting are individuals who suffer one or more of the following conditions:
- Deformed skin due to infection
- Deep burns
- Large, open wounds
- Poorly healing ulcers
- Bed sores
- Skin cancer
Results and Recovery
The donor areas should heal within the first 1-2 weeks post-surgery, but the graft sites will likely take double that time. While absorbable stitches have become rather popular, Dr. Barrett discourages them because they can cause inflammation when the body tries to break down the suture. As a better alternative, he uses non-reactive sutures that are removed at week one and two post-surgery. After all the stitches are removed, patients begin a taping protocol for an additional two more weeks to provide optimal healing and sun protection. After taping, our patients then start a 3-month scar gel treatment protocol to optimize and minimize scar remodeling and reduction. To ensure optimal results, patients should avoid swimming, bathing, or hot tubs for the first two weeks following surgery.