A skin graft is a piece of healthy skin removed from one area of your body to repair damaged or missing skin somewhere else on your body. This skin does not have its own source of blood flow.
A skin flap is healthy skin and tissue that is partly detached and moved to cover a nearby wound.
The area from where skin is taken is called the donor site. After surgery, you will have two wounds, the graft or flap itself and the donor site.
Learning how to care for skin flaps and grafts can help them heal more quickly and reduce scarring.
Autograft - self-care; Skin transplant - self-care; Split-skin graft - self-care; Full thickness skin graft - self-care; Partial-dermal skin graft - self-care; FTSG - self-care; STSG - self-care; Local flaps - self-care; Regional flaps - self-care; Distant flaps - self-care; Free flap - self-care; Skin autografting - self-care
Skin grafts are used to help more serious wounds heal, including:
Donor sites for grafts and flaps are chosen based on:
Often the donor site may be more painful after surgery than the wound due to newly exposed nerve endings.
You will need to care for both the flap or graft site as well as the donor site. When you come home after surgery, you will have a dressing on your wounds. The dressing does several things, including
To care for the graft or flap site:
To care for the donor site:
Your doctor will let you know when it's OK to bathe after surgery. Keep in mind:
At some point during the healing process, you won't need a dressing anymore. Your doctor will tell you when you can leave your wound uncovered and how to care for it.
Call your doctor if:
Also call your doctor if you notice signs of an infection, such as:
Chu EA, Byrne PJ, Odland RM, Goding GS. Skin flap physiology and wound healing. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 79.
MacNeal RJ, Messingham MJ, Arpey CJ. Skin grafting. In: Robinson JK, Hanke CW, Siegel DM, Fratila A, eds. Robinson: Surgery of the Skin. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 19.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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