Skin grafts are thin sheets of healthy skin removed from one part of the body (donor site) and put on another part. Grafts can be used to treat skin damaged by burns, infection, or other injury. If possible, a doctor takes healthy skin from areas that are usually covered by clothes or are not easily seen.
You will have a bandage over the skin graft. The area may be sore for 1 to 2 weeks. Keep the area of the skin graft dry while it heals, unless your doctor gives you other instructions. If possible, prop up the area of your body that has the skin graft. Keeping it raised will reduce swelling and fluid buildup, which can cause problems with the graft. You also will have a bandage on the donor site.
Try to avoid getting sunlight on the skin graft for several months. This helps to prevent a permanent change of colour in the grafted skin. Also, avoid exercise that stretches the skin graft for at least 3 weeks after surgery, unless your doctor gives you other instructions.
If the graft was placed on your legs, arms, hands, or feet, you may need physiotherapy to prevent scar tissue from limiting your movement. This therapy is very important. It may involve wearing splints and doing stretches and range-of-motion exercises. These may be painful, but they help you to heal properly.
It may take months for you to regain some feeling in the grafted area. The feeling will be different than it was before your injury.
You may not have sweat glands in the skin graft area. If the grafted area is large, this may make it hard for the area to cool off when you are hot. The grafted area may not have oil glands. This can make the skin graft dry and flaky. After your graft heals, you may need to use lotion to keep the skin moist. The skin graft may not grow hair.
Sometimes skin grafts do not "take" or survive after being transferred. If the skin graft does not work, you may need another graft.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different rate, and certain areas of the body take longer to heal than others. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of:
October 13, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Ellen K. Roh, MD - Dermatology
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